The Herald Bulletin

April 14, 2014

Multiplication tourney sparks interest in math

Idea came to teacher at a basketball game

By Stuart Hirsch The Herald Bulletin
The Herald Bulletin

---- — ALEXANDRIA — Let’s face it. Mastering math facts like multiplication tables can be, well, boring.

Especially if you’re a third-grader.

But Laura Jean Rowe, a third- grade teacher at Alexandria-Monroe Intermediate School, figured out a way to make it fun. Really.

She was with a colleague at a high school basketball game recently. The NCAA Tournament was coming up, when an idea popped into her head.

Why not create a multiplication tournament in Alexandria where students competed against each other and advanced through brackets?

What she came up with was the MCAA, or Multiplication Championship of Alexandria All Stars. Rowe traded March Madness for Multiplication Madness.

Stephanie Baledge, remembered the moment Thursday as the competition for third- and-fourth-graders got underway underway in the intermediate school gymnasium. Fifth- and sixth-graders competed Friday.

“I said that is a great idea. This is a way to make it (multiplication) exciting and challenging,” she said. “Anything you do to make it competitive, the kids love.”

And it showed as students gathered excitedly and waited for their names to be called.

“They were so excited about it all week long,” Rowe said. “We’ve been practicing.”

After the fifth and sixth grades played on Friday morning and the winners were announced, Rowe said, the playoffs were held.

“The whole school came down to watch as the winners went head to head. It was so quiet you could hear a pin, or dice, as the case may be, drop,” she said.

The students paired off at stations. Each was given a 12-sided dice. At the count of a proctor, (Alexandria-Monroe High School students), each child rolled their dice and the first one to correctly answer the multiplication problem that came up won a point.

The first student to score 25 points won the round and advanced to the next level, or bracket.

Madison Carver, 9, was among the first to compete and won her initial round. “I’ve been studying really hard,” she said, but admitted struggling a bit with her six times tables.

Madison said she liked the event because “you get to do competition with your friends and it’s not about winning, it’s about having fun.”

Mason Zent, 8, also won his first round in the competition, but lost his second, a close, hard-fought match with Taylor Hatfield.

Mason said his parents helped him prepare using flash cards, adding that it was fun competing against his classmates.

“I think it’s pretty neat,” said Anthony Beane, one of about 15 high school students who served as proctors for the competition. “I never got to do anything like this when I was in third grade.”

Rowe, who dressed in a referee’s uniform while running the competition, immediately enlisted support from other teachers and Principal Chris Schnepp, who was on hand for the event.

Area businesses, including Dortee’s Drive In, Pizza King, Pizza Hut of Anderson, Kleenco, and Frosting and Crust bakery contributed prizes for winners. And student who participated received T-shirts.

Schnepp called the competition a great way to help motivate students who often struggle with mastering multiplication facts in the third grade.

“Who knows what the state is going to do next year, but it’s likely single multiplication will need to be mastered before they go on to the fourth grade,” he said.

Rowe said about 155 students in the four grades signed up for the competition. Students who didn’t participate brought books to read, but most of those kids seemed to be more interested in the excitement of the tournament.

“Now that they’ve seen it one time, I think we’ll have more sign up next year,” Rowe said.

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And the winners are Grand Champion: Kendall Parker Sixth-grade winner: Madison Zent Fifth-grade winner: Allie Gast Fourth-grade winner: Kendall Parker Third-grade winner: Aubrey Baer