The eighth annual Super Bowl of Multiplication at the R.J. McNulty Academy for International Studies & Literacy Magnet School in Amsterdam was a good-old-fashioned shootout. Final score: 64-56.
The best multipliers in McNulty’s trio of third-grade classes squared off Friday in what has become an annual celebration of multiplication and battle.
Students earn a spot on the field – it’s actually a basketball court with tape marking out yard lines and orange cones designating the sidelines – if they can memorize all of their basic multiplication facts. The multiplication tables – “five times two is 10, five times three is 15, five times four is 20,” and so on – serve as a foundation of all the math that comes afterward.
“Multiplication is a huge part of third-grade math, and they need to know their facts to be successful in third grade and every grade beyond,” said Karyn Cognetti, a McNulty teacher who has led the multiplication bowl since its inception.
For eight years now, the school has hosted the competition to excite students about learning their basic multiplication tables. Working in teams, students pass a football back and forth; after each catch, principal Eric Romano called out a multiplication problem. The students huddled before calling out their answer. A correct answer moves the ball closer to the end zone. Enough correct answers and they score.
The problems came in a fast frenzy as each team moved down the field with ease.
“Three times six?”
“Nine times nine?”
But the toughest problems were reserved for two-point conversions.
“Eight times 80?” Romano called out.
After conferring together in the huddle, many of the third-grade students puzzling through the problem with their fingertips, the group landed on their answer. “640.
“640 is correct,” Cognetti cheered another score.
In the end, the McNulty Jaguars barely edged out the McNulty Saints, scoring as the final seconds of the game ticked off the clock.
“It was good because we won,” said 9-year-old Jeshuaine Ressy, who caught one pass as she spun around and clung tightly to the ball in the endzone. “We just kept on getting points, because we are smart and know our multiplication facts.”
She wasn’t wrong. From the start of the game, both teams went back and forth, scoring on every possession. In fact, the teams could not be stopped on any possession. In fact, the teams could not be stopped on any down.
Both teams answered every multiplication problem thrown at them with aplomb. With neither team fumbling a problem, the game came down to clock management and who had the final possession.
“The coin toss, that gave them more time to score,” 8-year-old Mason Uriola, captain of the losing team, said after the game. But he was proud of his team. “They were working together, having fun and getting them all correct.”