Elementary school student speaks out against math homework question comparing girls’ weight

A Utah elementary school student spoke out last week against a math homework question that compared girls’ weight, leading the curriculum company to apologize and remove the question from their materials on Thursday. 

Rhythm, 9, who is a fourth-grade student at Grant Elementary School in Murray, Utah, told Fox 13 Salt Lake City that she thought the math problem 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,” she said. 

The math problem asked, “The table to the right shows the weight of three Grade 4 students. How much heavier is Isabel than the lightest student?” 

“This is offensive! Sorry I won’t write this is rude,” Rhythm wrote under the question. 

The student’s mother, Naomi Pacheco told the station that she was “shocked.” 

“I was shocked, honestly,” Pacheco said. “I feel like it’s such an irresponsible way to teach children how to do math.

The mother recalled her daughter telling her about the question. 

“She said, ‘You know mom, I’m not going to answer this question, I’m not going to do it,’” Pacheco said.

The homework problem is part of Rhythm’s Common Core math curriculum, which was provided to Murray City School District by curriculum company Eureka Math, Fox 13 reported. 

“The problems right before that talked about watermelons, and then the problem before that, a Saint Bernard,” Melissa Hamilton, the Murray City School District Director of Elementary Teaching and Learning, told the station. “So, 4th-grade student, 4th-grade problem.”

The fourth-grader also wrote a letter to her teacher. 

“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 because I just didn’t think that was nice,” Rhythm’s letter said. 

Rhythm’s teacher also supported the student. 

“Her teacher was so responsive and spoke to her about it and supported her decision,” Pacheco told Fox 13. “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.”

Eureka Math initially told Fox 13 that in the six years they’ve provided math modules, they’ve never had a complaint about this question.

“There is no value judgment in the question about weight, it’s merely a comparison," Eureka Math’s Director of Marketing Communications Chad Colby told the station. "It sounds like the parent is putting the value judgment on it, not the question."

But on Thursday, Eureka Math apologized and removed the question from their curriculum, as communicated through a statement to Fox 13. 

"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 of 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," Eureka Math said. 

Pacheco said she is happy about the positive feedback she's gotten from the community.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.