Teacher Fired For Giving 3rd Graders 'Violent And Racist' Math Problems
A tiger bakes hundreds of humans in ovens. A boy chokes to death on hundreds of marbles. A SWAT team member kills hundreds of terrorists, murderers and arsonists, in just one week alone.
These aren't scenes from a surrealist art house film, but the plot lines of math problems, which a Washington, D.C., schoolteacher gave her third graders for homework, a local TV station reports. After the story broke, Center City Public Charter Schools investigated, and decided the teacher had to go.
The unnamed teacher at Trinidad Center City School decided against using the school's textbooks for the homework assignment last Monday, and instead went to the website Homeschooling-Paradise.com, which provides free educational resources.
"Children are bored to death doing sterile and sanitized math problems like 'Mark has 5 pencils. If he gives 3 of his pencils to Sally, how may pencils does he have left?'" writes Kris Murphy, the creator of Homeschooling-Paradise. "So what did I do? I made my math problems fun and funny by putting what kids absolutely adore -- ogres, fairies, bashing, sword-fighting... and yes, nose-picking and belching too..."
The questions are certainly creative. Ninjas get stabbed to death with chopsticks, a sea monster gets tickled to death by paratroopers, and buffalos get decapitated with a machete.
One of the problems:
My 3 friends and I were caught and tied up by 1023 screaming cannibals in a jungle last night. Soon we were feeling terribly itchy because of the mosquitoes. We begged the cannibals to scratch us. 219 cannibals refused because they were busy cutting vegetables. The rest of them, however, surrounded us in equal numbers and began to scratch us with their teeth, just like dogs. It felt good! How many cannibals scratched me?
"It doesn't follow anything that we do," Beverly Wheeler, the CEO of City Center Public Charter Schools, told Washington's WUSA-TV. "I found them to be violent and racist."
Many parents were shocked that the teacher, reportedly a minister, would assign such violence-riddled questions to their 8-year-olds. Some suspected that somebody else had made her do it, the TV station reported. Wheeler is skeptical, however. Regardless, she says, the teacher is still responsible.
On the feedback section of Homeschooling-Paradise, many parents and teachers praise Murphy's unorthodox questions. Camelia Ticau, from California, said her son finds them "very funny." Melissa Cronin, from Washington, claimed they gave her son "self confidence." "I am actually getting better at math," writes Mahesh from Ontario, Canada. "Your website is awesome!"
But one commenter came to the same conclusion as the school. "The content," writes Edward Bryne from Minnesota, is "inappropriate for children."
"I want to make children love math," Murphy replies. "The most popular books are about fighting and fantasy too, such as the 'Chronicles of Narnia' and 'Harry Potter' series."
But Wheeler doesn't think the times should be changing quite so morbidly in math class. The teacher, she says, showed "bad judgment."
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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