Slavery Math Problems Outrage Parents

School asks students to tally slave deaths and whippings

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 22, 2013 3:23 PM CST

(Newser) – Some New York City teachers have found themselves in hot water over a math assignment for fourth graders featuring questions like, "In a slave ship, there can be 3,799 slaves. One day, the slaves took over the ship. 1,897 are dead. How many slaves are alive?" The assignment came to light when a substitute teacher balked at photocopying the ditto last week. "It shouldn't be a homework assignment," Aziza Harding explains. Instead, she took it to her graduate professor at NYU, who in turn contacted NY1.

"My first thought was, I don't believe it," the professor says. In fact, the sheet had already gone home with another fourth-grade class; the questions had been written by the students as part of a slavery lesson. But parents and educators are appalled all the same, saying it's hardly the best introduction to the horrors of slavery. "I'm appalled by this," the school's principal said. The Department of Education released a statement saying it was "obviously unacceptable," and promising disciplinary action against the teachers responsible.

Some teachers have gotten a stern talking to.
Some teachers have gotten a stern talking to.   (Shutterstock)
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One slave got whipped five times a day. How many times did he get whipped in a month (31 days)? Another slave got whipped nine times a day. How many times did the two slaves get whipped together? - A question from the handout

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