A set of homework questions for school kids on mathematical calculations have left a bad taste in the mouth for several parents after the questions involved seemed to reinforce casual sexist mindset with women shown going to spa breaks or calculating weight loss while the men did sit-ups.
William Sutcliffe, 49, from Edinburgh in Scotland took to his Twitter handle to share the problematic questions' sheet. Sutcliffe said that the “curriculum for excellence” maths homework is used throughout Scotland. He also said how the questions left his wife unimpressed, reported Daily Mail.
The questions especially seemed like reinforcing stereotypes sexism because the ones describing men had referred to them as doing exercises or buying bikes. Sutcliffe's post received a lot of support online by many other parents who accused the school of trying to normalise stoic sexism for children to pick up at a young age.
A children's author by profession, Sutcliffe shared the post on Twitter:
'My daughter's "curriculum for excellence" maths homework (used throughout Scotland) features sums about women going on spa breaks and calculating weight loss; men buying bikes and doing sit-ups. Very unimpressed wife has changed the names on the worksheet.'
Sutcliffe's wife, he said had then made changes on the sheet, which he shared online where she changed several of the names, such as changing 'Arnie' for 'Annie' and 'Dara' for 'Diana'.
My daughter’s “curriculum for excellence” maths homework (used throughout Scotland) features sums about women going on spa breaks and calculating weight loss; men buying bikes and doing sit-ups. Very unimpressed wife has changed the names on the worksheet. pic.twitter.com/nMtux73VMM— William Sutcliffe (@Will_Sutcliffe8) December 6, 2020
Sutcliffe's post received several supportive comments where parents expressed their dismay at the questions and some also gave other examples of how they have seen such casual sexism being part of normal school culture.
Some of the questions included, "Ellie weighed 85 kilograms. She went to a health resort for a week and lost 20% of her weight." or "Abbie had £220. She spent 25% on a weekend spa break."
Schools are some of the worst places for casualty reinforcing sexist stereotypes.— Sarah (@SarahISuppose) December 7, 2020
And this is why the patriarchy continues to flourish— Elizabeth Haynes (@Elizjhaynes) December 7, 2020
My daughter had a drugs talk at school last week- apparently when boys drink they risk ‘wasting their talent’ whereas girls risk ‘losing their reputation’ 😤— Katy Walker (@thekatywalker) December 6, 2020
My son’s previous school trying to illustrate pathways to learning played on local school names. Glen Course was a lad in jeans and a tee going to be a doctor. Maurice Wood was a lad in a jumper and jeans going to be an engineer. Ros Lin was a fairy princess (with wings) 1/2— Sam Currie (@SammoisaPunkRkR) December 6, 2020
Who quality checks these for diversity, realistic scenarios etc? How has this passed the maths dept audit?— John Dabell (@John_Dabell) December 7, 2020
I'd also be concerned with the questions endorsing weight loss in the minds of impressionable young females. The schools endorsement of these questions continue to push the unrealistic beauty standards on females at an age that eating disorders can develop.— thefastestspider (@fastestspider) December 7, 2020
It’s also worrying that the idea women need/want to lose weight is included as a given with pupils’ work, especially when eating disorders are rising and the impact on young people’s physical & mental wellbeing is long lasting. 😳— Jo Moseley (@Healthyhappy50) December 7, 2020
A few users however said that this may not have been the school's fault but parents should take it up with the publishers.
"’m afraid schools can’t afford to keep changing resources each year because they don’t reflect the ever changing status of society. Maths books are merely a tool used to ensure a concept, taught in an active, practical way, has been understood by the individual," said one user.
That is clearly a work sheet that can be printed and changed easily. I have been a teacher for 15 years and review each handout before I give it out. We all make mistakes and update our practice. It’s not about money. It’s about people who don’t care.— SuzyT (@SuzyT55596326) December 7, 2020
TeeJay Publications, who printed the book, took to Twitter and replied to Sutcliffe's post, promising to look into the matter.
Hi William, this content is old and we are sorry that it is still in circulation; we have worked through many years of resources to ensure that content is updated and will be updating this to ensure that the contexts we use are truly appropriate.— Teejay Maths (@Teejay_Maths) December 7, 2020
Some even pointed out the weight loss question, and said how it is even aimed at promoting disturbing standards of beauty amid a rise in eating disorders among growing people.