Usually when you do your homework, the goal is to complete every single problem, even the ones you may not know the answer to. Why? Because you want to better your chances of getting a good grade and maybe snag some participation points.
When 10-year-old Utah native Rhythm Pacheco was doing her math homework, she refused to answer one of her teacher’s questions—not because she didn’t know the answer, skipped it accidentally, or just didn’t feel like answering it—but because she felt like the question was morally wrong and shamed another girl’s weight.
And guess what … she’s right! The question read, “The table to the right shows the weight of three Grade 4 students. How much heavier is Isabel than the lightest student?” Instead of answering “Irene” or “Sue,” Rhythm circled the problem and wrote, “WHAT! ‘Sorry I won’t write this, it’s rude.”
She called her mom over and said, “‘Mom, come and read this question! I am not answering this, this is so wrong,'” Naomi Pacheco, her mother, told Today.
“I was shocked … I was shocked, honestly,” Naomi told Fox. “I feel like it’s such an irresponsible way to teach children how to do math.”
Rhythm then wrote a note to her teacher explaining why she couldn’t complete the math problem: “I don’t want to be rude, but I think that math problem wasn’t very nice, I thought that was judging people’s weight. Also, the reason I didn’t write a sentence is because I just didn’t think that was nice.”
“I wrote a note to my teacher because if it was on my homework then it could be on other people’s homework too and I didn’t think it should be on there,” Rhythm told Today. “I was very nervous I would get in trouble for not writing out the question, but I still solved the problem. My teacher spoke to me about it and made me feel like she was on my side,”
“This isn’t about the teacher, the school, or anything—we love our school and our community,” Naomi told Fox. “What it’s about is children being taught this everywhere, that it’s okay to make direct comparisons with weight.”
The math problem came from Eureka Math, and Chad Colby, director of marketing communications for Great Minds, who created Eureka Math, told Today that they will replace the problem.
“User feedback is a vital part of our culture. We are grateful to receive constructive feedback from students, teachers and parents alike,” he said. “We apologize for any discomfort or offense caused by the question. Please know that we will replace this question in all future reprints, and suggest that teachers supply students with an appropriate replacement question in the interim.”
Looks like Rhythm’s innocent message to her teacher led to big changes that will now impact schools everywhere who use Eureka Math. As for her parents, they couldn’t be more proud of her.
“Rhythm’s dad and I were extremely proud of Rhythm for listening to her gut instincts and standing up for what is right,” Naomi told Today. “We hope Rhythm’s story will encourage adults and children everywhere to listen to each other, have hard conversations and seek change. Creating a safe space for children, empowering parents and improving the conversations that we have with our children will build stronger relationships.”
“We are all beautifully made to be different shapes and sizes and it’s not acceptable to ask,” she continued. A+ to that.