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# Homework mixing slavery and math for NYC 4th-graders stirs uproar

February 22, 2013|By Michael Muskal

New York City educators have learned the hard way that there are some things that just don’t mix -- like using slavery to teach math.

The principal of P.S. 59, a well-thought-of elementary school that draws students from Midtown and the area around the United Nations, told the Daily News that she was “appalled” by the assignment and has ordered sensitivity training for all of the staff.

Last month, one of the fourth-grade teachers sent pupils home with math problems that were based on slavery. The pupils wrote the questions themselves after the teacher, Jane Youn, 32, told them to blend the lessons they had learned in social studies class with their math assignments, New York media reported.

Question 1 on the sheet, entitled “Slavery Word Problems Homework,” was written as a matter-of-fact subtraction problem. NY-1, a 24-hour news channel, reported that the question asked:

“In a slave ship, there can be 3,799 slaves. One day, the slaves took over the ship. 1,897 are dead. How many slaves are alive?”

The second question, the cable television station said, had multiple parts multiplication and addition. It said:

“One slave got whipped five times a day. How many times did he get whipped in a month (31 days)? Another slave got whipped nine times a day. How many times did he get whipped in a month? How many times did the two slaves get whipped together in one month?”

A student-teacher said she was shocked by the wording and later refused to hand out the worksheet in another class.

“I looked at the questions and was like, 'Wow! This is kind of inappropriate,'“ Aziza Harding told the New York Post, saying the questions contained “desensitized” violence.

“I just found it alarming that this would happen in a state that you would think was more liberal,” Harding said.

The Department of Education released a statement, saying, "This is obviously unacceptable and we will take appropriate disciplinary action against these teachers. The Chancellor spoke to the principal, and she has already taken steps to ensure this does not happen again."

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