This Badass Fourth Grader Refused to Solve a Math Problem That Weight-Shamed Young Girls
The question in her homework asked how much "heavier" one girl was compared to the others.
Rhythm Pacheco, a 10-year-old girl from Utah, is making headlines this week for calling out a math homework problem she found seriously troubling.
The question asked students to compare the weight of three girls and figure out who was the "lightest." In an interview with Today, Pacheco said she felt that the question could make young girls feel insecure about their weight, so she decided to share her concerns with her teacher.
To start, she circled the homework problem, scrawling, "What!!!!" alongside it in pencil. "This is offensive!" she added. "Sorry I won't write this it's rude." (Albeit her writing had a few adorable, yet equally blunt, misspellings; see below.)
In a separate letter to her teacher, Pacheco explained why she chose not to solve the problem: "Dear Mrs. Shaw, I don't want to be rude, but I don't think that math problem was very nice because that's judging people's weight. Also, the reason I did not do the sentence is cause I just don't think that's nice. Love: Rhythm." (Related: The Science of Fat-Shaming)
Thankfully, Pacheco's teacher completely understood her student's concerns and handled the situation with sensitivity and encouragement. "Rhythm's teacher was so responsive and handled the situation with such care," Pacheco's mom, Naomi, told Today. "She told Rhythm that she understands how she would be upset about this and that she didn't have to write out the answer. She even responded to her note with such love, correcting her grammar and telling Rhythm, 'I love you too!'"
The fact that such a question appeared on a homework assignment in 2019 is upsetting, to say the least—something Pacheco's mom agreed with wholeheartedly. "We are all beautifully made to be different shapes and sizes and it's not acceptable to ask, 'How much heavier is Isabel than the lightest student?'" she told Today. "Questions and comparisons such as these do more harm than good for self-esteem and body image." (Related: Young Girls Think Boys Are Smarter, Says Super-Depressing Study)
Since Pacheco's brave stand against body-shaming has gone viral, people on social media have been applauding her, including Healthy Is the New Skinny author, Katie Willcox. "This 4th grader has amazing parents who are raising a good kid," the influencer shared on Instagram.
Not only that, but Pacheco's message has led to changes that will now impact schools everywhere. Eureka Math, a widely used curriculum program that created the math problem in Pacheco's homework, told Today it will alter this particular problem set so that it no longer features the question comparing girls' weights.
"User feedback is a vital part of our culture," Chad Colby, director of marketing communications for Great Minds, who created Eureka Math, told Today. "We are grateful to receive constructive feedback from students, teachers and parents alike. 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." (Related: ICYDK, Body-Shaming Is an International Problem)
Needless to say, Pacheco's parents couldn't be more proud of their daughter. "We hope Rhythm's story will encourage adults and children everywhere to listen to each other, have hard conversations and seek change," her mom told Today. "Creating a safe space for children, empowering parents and improving the conversations that we have with our children will build stronger relationships."