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Parents Furious about Sexually Explicit Maya Angelou Math Assignment

A mom in Ohio posted her daughter's homework on her Facebook page and it has been shared almost 37,000 times. Despite her modest friend total of 513, the post has been liked almost 4,200 times. The reason? In an episode of political correctness and social justice run amok, her eighth-grade daughter's math homework included graphic questions about sexual assault, drug dealing, and prostitution.

According to the picture she posted, multiple choice math questions were combined with the early life abuse and exploitation experienced by poet Maya Angelou. The questions include:

    y= x +2

3x + 6y = 12

Angelou was sexually abused by her mother's _______ at age 8, which shaped her career choices and motivation for writing.

a. (0,2) boyfriend

b. (4,6) brother

c. (-3, -1) father

***

    x = y -1

y = -4x + 21

Trying to support her son as a single mother, she worked as a pimp, prostitute and ________.

a. (-3, -2) Bookie

b. (9, 10) Drug Dealer

c. (4, 5) Night Club Dancer

The mother, Kindra Sue Brandon, expressed shock at the reach of her post, saying, "My daughter brought this homework home on Wednesday Jan 31st and I posted this on my page to my friends on Facebook. Like wow. Look at this !!! I had nooooo idea it was going to go this far."

Brandon said in a Facebook message to PJ Media that the assignment blindsided her. "I went to the school the next morning and had a meeting with the principal and vice principal about this assignment. They had no idea about this worksheet. They were just as in shock as all of us," she said. "They claim... the teacher got the material from Teachers Pay Teachers. And the preview of this worksheet didn't have these questions on it. The teacher was not there Thursday or Friday and school was closed yesterday due to snow. So we shall see today if the teacher who assigned this will be there."

It turns out that the teacher never made it to the meeting, so those specific questions never got answered.

Teachers Pay Teachers is an open source platform to share lesson plans and teaching resources among teachers. Some materials are presented at no cost, and some are paid lessons. An article in The Atlantic explained some of the pros and cons of Teachers Pay Teachers and other open source platforms:

On the site, teachers upload a mixture of resources that are free to download and ones that are listed for sale, ranging in price from 99 cents for a slideshow or activity worksheet to $40 for an entire unit plan. Individual teachers are generally the shoppers, sometimes paying out-of-pocket, sometimes using school funds allocated for materials. Copyrights on materials can also be pretty guarded: Some teachers sell licenses for the right to re-share materials with colleagues while others offer their work only as un-editable formats like PDF.

PJM asked Brandon about the Maya Angelou material. "It actually was a four-page math workbook with the third page being this," she explained. "It had a short paragraph about Maya Angelou and those were the questions they decided to ask. They were using cross-curriculum, obviously, with the math but they are not or will not be studying Maya Angelou in any subject in 8th grade nor in any other grade in the school."

When one looks up the Maya Angelou math curriculum on Teachers Pay Teachers, this is what it says:

Product Description

Bring to life the traditional practice class or homework assignment with some global competency and diversity! While your students practice solving systems of equations with substitution, they can learn about the poet, activist, teacher, inspiration Maya Angelou!

CAUTION: Mature content is integral to her biography. This is not suggested as homework and if you choose to you it, should be in your classroom where you can control the conversation.

Person Puzzles are designed to highlight individuals with diverse backgrounds who have made significant contributions to our world. I typically use Person Puzzles as timed warm-ups which allows me to share a little about the person's background before my daily lesson. I can also drop some college readiness info like majors, degrees and careers!

Scrolling down the page, one quickly arrives at the reviews section with this at the top:

On December 31, 2013, nikki Longworth (TpT Seller) said:

Make sure # 2 & 3 are appropriate for your class before distribution. I had to explain to my students it was proof that someone can have a rough life and still achieve great things! Otherwise great, as always

On December 16, 2014, Sharee H. said:

I rated this a little lower on practicality because I don't think questions 3 &5 are very appropriate to have on a school assignment, especially in this day and age. It could be a trigger for some, but also it just opens up conversations that I really don't want to have with the students that I teach. Otherwise this is a resource that I would use for sure!

Brandon says that, while the principal and vice principal shared her shock, nothing appears to have been done about this issue in the week since she brought it to their attention. In a follow-up message, she said, "The teacher is actually still at the school and it seems they have just swept this under the rug."

Of course, today's culture routinely requires prostration to the gods of political correctness, injecting social justice into every aspect of learning and life. Even still, it remains unclear how an understanding of Angelou's history of abuse and graphic details of her past life could enhance the skill set required to pass eighth-grade math.