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10-year-old fights "offensive" math problem about girls' weights: "Girls shouldn’t be comparing"

Elementary school student Rhythm went viral when she refused to answer a problematic math question comparing two girls' weights.

10-year-old fights "offensive" math problem about girls' weights: "Girls shouldn’t be comparing"

The future is filled with women who aren't afraid to speak their minds. How do we know this? Well, because parents are raising their daughters right and, of course, because little girls like 10-year-old Rhythm exist. Rhythm is a fourth-grader from Salt Lake County in Murray, Utah, who simply couldn't hold back when she came across an "offensive" math question while completing her homework. The question in question (pun intended) compared the weights of two different girls in the fourth grade. In a day and age when harmful diet culture and body shaming are a part and parcel of a girl's journey to and then through adulthood, Rhythm wasn't comfortable answering the question - so she fought back, Fox News reports.


Rhythm's mother, Naomi Pacheco, revealed in an interview with Fox News, "I was shocked... I was shocked, honestly." She didn't expect to see such an unwarranted, offensive question on her daughter's homework. She continued, explaining the situation, "I feel like it’s such an irresponsible way to teach children how to do math. [The question] was comparing girls’ weights. It says, ‘The table to the right shows the weight of three grade four students. How much heavier is Isabell than the lightest student?' She [Rhythm] said, ‘You know mom, I’m not going to answer this question, I’m not going to do it.'" To this, Rhythm herself added, "I thought it was offensive. I didn’t like that because girls shouldn’t be comparing each other. I know it was a math problem... But I don’t think that was really okay... I didn’t really think that would be on homework, I thought that would be fruits or vegetables or things like that."


Therefore, instead of answering the question, Rhythm circled it and wrote beside it, "What! This is offensive! Sorry I won’t write this it’s rude!" The fourth-grader said she was scared about standing up and refusing to answer the question as the homework would have been graded, so she handed her teacher an explanatory letter as well. She wrote, "I don’t want to be rude, but I think that math problem wasn’t very nice, I thought that was judging people’s weight. Also, the reason I didn’t write a sentence is [that] I just didn’t think that was nice." Her teacher was understanding of the situation and has since returned the letter. Naomi shared, "Her teacher was so responsive and spoke to her about it and supported her decision. This isn’t about the teacher, the school, or anything — we love our school and our community. What it’s about is children being taught this everywhere, that it’s okay to make direct comparisons with weight."


Melissa Hamilton, the Murray City School District Director of Elementary Teaching and Learning, was certainly on the defense about the situation. She stated regarding the incident, "The problems right before that talked about watermelons, and then the problem before that, a Saint Bernard... They’re trying to make questions relevant to a fourth grader’s life and lifestyle and things that they encounter. I can certainly see if a fourth-grade student did misconstrue that question. However, in [the] math curriculum, [it] wasn’t about body image — the question was about moving kilograms to pounds."


Following the incident, Fox News decided to contact Eureka Math, the organization that developed the school's Common Core math curriculum. Director of Marketing Communications, Chad Colby, was also equally defensive, affirming, "There is no value judgment in the question about weight, it’s merely a comparison. It sounds like the parent is putting the value judgment on it, not the question." He argued that the company had no reason to address the question or remove it from the curriculum. To this, Naomi responded, "I think we have other resources and other ways of teaching our children math and how to weigh proportions, objects, people, without direct comparisons — especially comparing little girls. The fact that they [Eureka Math] are asking questions like this irresponsible. If it is such a great way to teach, then I think we can look outside of the box and ask questions differently. There’s just no need for it."


Since then, the company has released a follow-up statement in which they asserted, "User feedback is a vital part of our culture; we are grateful to receive constructive feedback from students, teachers, and parents alike.  We apologize for any discomfort or offense caused by the question.  Please know that we will replace this question in all future reprints, and suggest that teachers supply students with an appropriate replacement question in the interim." Unfortunately, it shouldn't take an adamant fourth-grader and bad press to convince a company in the field of education to approach their curriculums with sensitivity and through the lens of the real world. Nonetheless, Rhythm fought the hard battle - and won. Kudos to her (and the supportive adults in her life).


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