Saturday, March 3, 2012

If this is Singapore Math, I want nothing to do with it.

There is a teacher in trouble for assigning violent math problems.
A Washington, D.C., charter school teacher has been fired after it was discovered the teacher had assigned third-grade students a number of math problems framed around violent and illegal scenarios.
Hummm. Not a peep from the evil teachers' union. Maybe you can fire bad teachers after all. Maybe, just maybe, you need a reason to fire bad teachers ... and given a good reason, the NEA will stay out of it. Oh, my bad, this is a charter school. The union and all those pesky certification requirements are not welcome.

At first, the unnamed teacher at the Trinidad Center City School claimed he had been ordered to assign the problems, but it was quickly discovered that the teacher had actually downloaded them from a free homeschooling website called ""
Ordered to use those problems ... doubtful. I've copied a few below. I'm not sure I'd give them to a third grader.  They are stupid and unrealistic while pretending to be "engaging". The violence is somewhat of a problem but then I grew up with Tom and Jerry and Wile E. Coyote so cartoon violence doesn't bother me, but I can see how today's admin, parents and students might be uncomfortable. Are they Racist? Absolutely.
Even more baffling, other parents at the school say the teacher in question is a minister.
I'd be curious if the "minister" was a real one or just someone who bought a one-week course and a semi-fake diploma. I think this is a red herring. Being a minister doesn't immunize you from stupidity or racist assholishness but it isn't pertinent to this discussion.

Anyway, I'm interested in the questions. I followed the link to Homeschooling Paradise and then chose a set of free printable math worksheets for 3rd grade. At random, I chose this one.

Math Problem 9
A swarm of bloodsucking flies descended upon Egypt. King Tut and King Rehotep leapt onto their chariots and began to catch the flies with their long sticky tongues. By the time they were finished, King Tut had swallowed 7 times as many flies as King Rehotep. If King Rehotep caught 251 flies, how many delicious flies did King Tut swallow?
Really? King Rehotep? Catching flies with their "long, sticky tongues"? I'll bet this question satisfies the Science and History requirements, too ... you little &^%(. 

And this teacher went and downloaded this because ... why?  Was this material superior to what he already had? Wait ... this is a Washington DC Charter School teacher? 
Math Problem 16
My sister greedily lapped up 483 liters of maggot juice from a saucer. I slurped up 5 times as much creamy maggot juice as she. How much delightfully delicious maggot juice did we drink altogether?
Sure, that's a RealWorld problem. My mass is 100kg. So this "sister" lapped up nearly five times my weight in liquid and "I" lapped up five times as much, from a saucer remember; that's equal to the weight of my Ford Ranger pickup truck.

I'm done with that idiot teacher. Send him on his way - he definitely used some really bad materials and he has the intelligence and judgement of a rotten tomato. I will try to ignore the whole "Charter Schools are automatically better than public schools thing" - that's another piece.

But homeschooling parents don't deserve this trash either and this website must be serving someone. It's no wonder that so many homeschoolers take math classes at the high school if this is the kind of educational material they and their parents get to choose from.

Pretty amazing stuff. I tried out the mass, volume and time.

Question 1
Last night, a 2950 g beaver entered Bob's house and put its wet paw into a hole in a wall socket. The poor beaver died of electrocution. Bob was delighted. He cut out 850 g of the dead beaver and made beaver pies with it. He divided the remaining dead body into 3 equal pieces and gave them to Alan, Charles and Mei Ling. What was the mass of the portion Charles received?
That seems a bit much. Let's try some intended for the second grader in your homeschool paradise.
Serial killer brandishing machete clip artFree Elementary Math Worksheets: Homeschool Math Practice Question 19
Sadistic Serial Killer Suppiah crept into a hospital brandishing a machete. He went on a killing spree and murdered 634 doctors, nurses and patients. He slashed 457 doctors to death. If he butchered 151 more nurses than doctors, how many poor nurses did he kill?
Well, that's a relief; I thought they'd have something unpleasant.  I'm more offended that this problem is unsolvable as written. The answer is supposed to be 164, you see.
"If your child got all correct, she must be a math whiz. If she didn't, all she needs is a bit more math practice. That's what we are here for! Please bookmark our Home Page and come back for more Singapore Math Worksheets."
Um, No.


  1. I'd like to defend Singapore math, but not this teacher or this website. I've used the Singapore Math books (the ones that really are from Singapore: imports them). They don't have problems like this at all. They have some weird non-US contexts like buying chicken saytay, whatever that is, but not gross stuff like this. Bad choices to give to a class (though I can think of a few individual elementary school boys they might keep engaged)

  2. These problems are way too wordy to ever make it in a Singapore Math textbook. Bleah. Try for better, teacher-made & Singapore-style word problems.

  3. Go to Crystal Springs Books and look at their problem solving books also. Great problems for model drawing, no blood or gore involved! Also, Char Forsten's book, Step-by-Step Model Drawing is an excellent resource if you're trying to learn about model drawing.

  4. As a homeschooling parent, I can say I have not used that website - nor would I. It's not as if there are limitations placed on what materials we can use, so why pick something crappy?

  5. I still can't find the racism. Seriously.

    If some ancient Egyptian king with a long, sticky tongue (a vivid image, to be sure) is somehow racist, then Tom and Jerry were cat-ist. Or something.

  6. Even though I agree with the fact that these math problems are not somethin I would ever allow my children to learn from, I don't see the racism either????

    Keri- A mom who is enjoying the homeschool elementary
    stage, of her homeschool journey!

  7. How is this website connected to Singapore Math? It looks like an independent site that some individual made. As far as I can see there is none.

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