Slavery References in Grade School Math Stir Controversy

Parents of third-graders in a Georgia suburb were shocked last week to find their children’s math homework laced with references to slavery and beatings.

The homework assignment, created by one teacher but passed out to others, was handed out at Beaver Ridge Elementary School in Norcross, Ga., and the questions were alarming.

“Each tree had 56 oranges. If 8 slaves picked them equally, then how much would each slave pick?” the homework assignment read.

Another question from the worksheet asked students, “If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in 1 week?”

The slavery-referenced assignment is stirring controversy throughout the U.S. Civil and human rights organizations are planning to stage a protest, calling for the school superintendent, J. Alvin Wilbanks, to fire those responsible for giving students the “racist assignment.”

However, district spokeswoman Sloan Roach told CBS Atlanta that the homework assignment was not intended to be racist, but was an attempt on behalf of a teacher to incorporate social studies with math.

According to Roach, the third grade students were studying famous Americans including Frederick Douglas, and one teacher created the assignment with the intent of linking the mathematics homework to the man who escaped slavery and helped lead the abolitionist movement.

Nevertheless, Roach added that the district recognized that the homework was inappropriate and said it had launched an investigation into the incident.

The math problems have sparked national outcry. The hosts of ABC’s "The View" discussed the matter on their prime-time show.

“It sounds like they knew exactly what they were doing. It was very racist,” morning talk show co-host Sherri Shepherd said.

“That’s not teaching slavery,” she added.

Parents of the students have also expressed outrage and sadness over the questions.

“I’m having to explain to my 8-year-old why slavery, or slave, or beatings is in a math problem and that hurts,” parent Christopher Braxton told ABC Action News.

Although civil and rights groups are calling for the termination of teachers involved, it is unclear if the school district will fire them.

“It does not seem there was any intent of maliciousness here, it was just a teacher who wrote some bad questions,” Roach told ABC News.