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Fourth grader refuses to answer math question comparing girls' weight

The question asked how much "heavier" one girl was than the others.
Math question given to student
10-year-old student refused to answer a math question about weight.Naomi Pacheco
/ Source: TODAY

Naomi Pacheco was making dinner when her 10-year-old daughter, Rhythm, suddenly called her over to see her math homework.

Like most parents, the Utah resident is used to helping her child troubleshoot homework problems, but this time around, Rhythm didn't actually need help solving the equation.

"She said, 'Mom, come and read this question! I am not answering this, this is so wrong,'" Pacheco told TODAY Style.

While completing her math homework, the fourth grader came across a question that didn't quite sit right with her. It read: "The table to the right shows the weight of three Grade 4 students. How much heavier is Isabel than the lightest student?"

The issue at hand? Rhythm was concerned the question was offensive to young girls who might already feel insecure about their bodies.

"Rhythm circled the question on the math worksheet and wrote "WHAT!" She drew an arrow that pointed to the question and wrote, 'Sorry I won't write this, it's rude.'" Pacheco said.

The 10-year-old proceeded to write the following note to her teacher explaining why she couldn't answer the question: "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"

Note to teacher
The note Rhythm wrote to her teacher.Naomi Pacheco

Rhythm did end up solving the problem, but she didn't indicate which child was heavier.

"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. 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," the 10-year-old told TODAY Style.

Luckily, Rhythm's math teacher at Grant Elementary School in Murray, Utah, completely understood her point of view.

"Rhythm's teacher was so responsive and handled the situation with such care. 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 told Rhythm, 'I love you too!'" Pacheco said.

Rhythm and Naomi
Rhythm with her mom, Naomi.Naomi Pacheco

The problem set came from Eureka Math, a popular curriculum program that was created in 2013. Chad Colby, director of marketing communications for Great Minds, who created Eureka Math, told TODAY Style the company uses both boy and girl names in their problem sets, and has never received this type of feedback in the past. They do, however, take it seriously.

“User feedback is a vital part of our culture. 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," he said.

D. Wright, the Murray City School District's communications and public information specialist, told TODAY that the school district will follow Eureka Math's lead and are pleased that Rhythm's teacher handled the situation in such a positive manner.

"The teacher was sensitive to the child's concerns, and the child's parent indicated to us that she felt we were supportive and understanding to her child and acknowledged her awareness of our positive intent," Wright said.

Rhythm and Naomi
Naomi and Rhythm are pleased that the question will be removed from the curriculum.Naomi Pacheco

While the math question might seem trivial to some, Pacheco is proud that her daughter was able to recognize a potentially sensitive issue for young girls.

"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?' Questions and comparisons such as these do more harm than good for self-esteem and body image," Pacheco said.

And right about now, she's pretty impressed with her little girl.

"Rhythm's dad and I were extremely proud of Rhythm for listening to her gut instincts and standing up for what is right," she said. "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."