High school apologizes for math problem about sexual assault

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/01/13/high-school-apologizes-for-mat.html


Yeah that was a poor choice there.


What kind of math problem is that supposed to be anyway?

Back in my day at least they paid lip service to the idea that the words should be relevant to something.


Thats not even a word problem… Like none of that needed to be there. The second question is no better.


That really made me ill, totally f’d up.


I guess a more-mathematical-but-still-inappropriate question would have been something along the lines of “Angelou was sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend at age X" (solve for X)


either way, reality is a bitch. I dont like math nor english

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I don’t have kids. Is this an example of the new combined curriculum stuff education boards have been pushing?


I agree that words are completely superfluous to the math problems, but there’s nothing there that should be unduly confronting to a high-school student. Those claiming outrage have a pretty narrow view of what’s acceptable for discussion. If our children brought home that paper, we’d be a little perplexed, mainly about the arbitrary and unnecessary practice of imposing the written stuff over the top of those algebra problems, but would never consider complaining that the content was inappropriate.


Especially if the content was part of another lesson the students were learning.

Weird choice, poor choice.


Context is everything.

Having a frank discussion about Angelou’s troubled early life in the context of her literary work is different than treating an act of childhood sexual abuse as a trivia question to solve for in a math class.


Are people objection to the question itself or that it’s being used in a questionable way with a math problem?

The question itself is relevant to the book since Angelou’s sexual assault is a pretty major event. combining it with an algebra problem in that way seems really weird though. Brainspore’s comment above seems like a better way to combine the two.


Yes! Thank you for explaining to me what i had a problem with here. (No sarcasm intended.)


Yeah, my thought too. Seems like they read the book and the abuse is pretty central. The math problem I find bizarre.


I disagree here (assuming you’re not referring to Brainspore’s comment directly before yours). That would still trivialize Maya Angelou’s life, as Brainspore explained in that parenthetically mentioned other comment of his.


Didn’t we see this story last year? And the year before? I am not sure it was ever true, was it?

This is an example of why you can’t test everything with multiple choice questions.

It’s a terrible way to quiz students on their understanding of a book, or algebra, and the combination of the two ways to select the right answer means that the whole thing is useless. If someone gives the right answer, you have no idea whether they have been paying attention to the autobiographical details,or if they solved the equations.

On top of that, even if you separate out the questions, these two things are still not suitable for multiple choice answers, as on their own, these two questions would encourage rote memorisation of the book or how to work out the answer, and neither way stimulates a deeper understanding of the subject.


Don’t disagree that context is important, but we personally still wouldn’t be unduly troubled by our children being exposed to this. I’d mainly be concerned at the weird logic that results in the superfluous text being placed around the algebra problems. What are they actually trying to achieve here? I like problems where questions/problems are presented in a text-based manner that requires math to solve, but this isn’t one of those. This is just stupid (but not dangerous nor offensive).

Having said that, I can see how this would be confronting for a child who is or was subject to sexual abuse. Does it normalise it?


A big problem, in any number of ways.

Why use a book as the text for a word problem? If you’ve read the book, you don’t need to do the math. Otherwise, you just get a sort of bizarre CliffsNotes version of the book, without the beautiful writing that explains the often-horrificcontext.


I had a couple of teachers who tried to convey the idea that even though different subjects were emphasized in different classes–and almost always in different rooms with different teachers–there was still a great deal of overlap. What we learned in English could be applied in Latin and vice versa, we’d need at least some algebra in science classes, and so on.

If that was the intent here it was a really poor way of going about it.