Fourth grader calls out math question comparing young girls' weights

A Utah fourth grader is speaking up. She claims a math problem on her homework shed light on a bigger problem: young girls' body image.

"I was shocked, honestly," said Rhythm's mom Naomi Pacheco. "Such an irresponsible way to teach children how to do math."

It was the last thing she expected to see on her fourth grader's homework.

"The problem right before that talked about a Saint Bernard and a dog, right before that," said Melissa Hamilton with the Murray City School District.

But the problem in question wasn't comparing apples and oranges.

"It was comparing girls' weights. It says, 'The table to the right shows the weight of three Grade 4 students. How much heavier is Isabel than the lightest student?'"

Naomi's daughter saw an issue.

"I thought it was offensive," Rhythm said. "Girls shouldn't be comparing each other. And I know it was a math problem, but I didn't think that was really okay."

She chose not to answer the question.

"She circled it and she said, 'What! This is offensive! Sorry I won't write this, it's rude!'" her mom said.

Instead, she wrote her teacher a letter.

"Don't want to be rude but I think that math problem wasn't very nice. I thought that was judging people's weight," the letter read.

"Her teacher was so responsive," said Naomi.

The problem is part of Rhythm's math curriculum, provided to Murray City schools for the first time by Eureka Math.

"They're trying to make questions that are relevant to a fourth grader's life and lifestyle and things that they encounter," Hamilton said.

"I didn't really think that would be on homework, I thought that would be like fruits or vegetables or stuff like that," said Rhythm.

Eureka Math says that in the six years they've provided math modules, they've never had a complaint about one of their questions.

"There is no value judgment in the question about weight, it's merely a comparison," they said in a statement. "It sounds like the parent is putting the value judgement on it, not the question."

"We have other resources and other ways of teaching our children math and how to weigh proportions, objects, people, without direct comparisons — especially comparing little girls."