SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Patriots

January 30, 2012

Deciphering the Super Bowl: XLVI is Greek to kids

NEW YORK — Kids LOL and OMG each other all the livelong day, but ask them to decipher the XLVI of this year's Super Bowl and you might as well be talking Greek.

They may know what X means, or V and I, but Roman numerals beyond the basics have largely gone the way of cursive and penmanship as a subject taught in the nation's schools.

Students in high school and junior high get a taste of the Roman system during Latin (where Latin is still taught, anyway). And they learn a few Roman numerals in history class when they study the monarchs of Europe.

But in elementary school, "Roman numerals are a minor topic," said Jeanine Brownell of the early mathematics development program at Erickson Institute, a child-development graduate school in Chicago.

That's not how Joe Horrigan remembers it.

"I went to Catholic school. I still have bruised knuckles from not learning them," said the NFL historian and spokesman for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

What's wrong with good ol' 46 to describe this year's Super Bowl between the Giants and the Patriots on Sunday?

"'Number 46,' it just kind of sounds like an inventory. 'Inspected by Joe,'" said Joe, who is LX years old. "Those Roman numerals, they're almost like trophies."

Any football fan worth his weight in nachos will find a way to figure out the Super Bowl number from one year to the next, but shouldn't kids have some sense of the Romans as an actual numbering system?

"My son is in first grade and this recently came up when we were clock shopping," said Eileen Wolter of Summit, N.J. "He couldn't believe they were real numbers. They only ever get used for things like copyrights or sporting events, which in my humble opinion harkens even further back to the gladiatorial barbaric nature of things like the Super Bowl."

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Patriots

Videos
Sports