A student in Utah has come forward to turn a simple math question into a feminist issue. During the homework assignment from a Salt Lake County elementary school, the student refused to complete the question because it treated young women unfairly. Because the question demanded the student to perpetuate young girls’ body image issues, the student decided to rebel against the question and instead shed light on how incidents like this can perpetuate negative self-images in young girls.
The young student’s mother, Naomi Pacheco, visited her daughter’s elementary school and stood up for her daughter. While she stood in front of those in charge, the concerned Utah mother said, “I was shocked. I was shocked, honestly.”
Because Naomi saw the question on her daughter’s homework assignment, she could not believe that the fourth-grade student’s teacher was trying to perpetuate the negative body images of young girls.
“I feel like it’s such an irresponsible way to teach children how to do the math,” Naomi said to KSTU.
“The problems right before that talked about watermelons, and then she problem before that, a Saint Bernard,” said Melissa Hamilton, Murray City School District Director of Elementary Teaching and Learning. “So, fourth-grade student, fourth-grade problem.”
However, the question that outraged Naomi was not about comparing the weights of teddy bears or apples – it was comparing something a bit more intimate.
“It was comparing girls’ weights,” Naomi said.
This was the math problem that outraged the Utah mother.
“The table to the right shows the weight of three Grade 4 students. How much heavier is Isabell than the lightest student?”
Naomi’s daughter, nine-year-old Rhythm, did not approve of the question. Her mother had raised her better than that and showed mom when she came across the problem on her homework assignment.
“I thought it was offensive,” Rhythm said. “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.”
Instead of feeding into the perpetuation of gender stereotypes and negative body image, Rhythm chose not to answer the offensive question.
“She circled (the question) and wrote, ‘What! This is offensive! Sorry I won’t write this it’s rude!’” Naomi said.
although Rhythm was standing up for what she believed was right, she was afraid her teacher would retaliate and punish her “because we get graded on this.”
That’s why Rhythm decided to put her writing skills to use and craft a letter to the teacher, explaining why she would not answer the math problem.
The child 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.”
Naomi said, “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.”
Rhythm and Naomi are the right to resist and try to change the way things are.
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