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Super Bowl stats help Putnam students tackle math

HURRICANE, W.Va. - Sporting black tape below each eye - one piece reading "Go!" and the other "49ers!" - 8-year-old Caleb Allawat left no doubt that he's a football fan.

His level of engagement during math class Monday might have been a little misleading as to his fondness for the subject.

Thanks to the Super Bowl statistics used during the lesson, the third-grader was finding math more fun.

"Because it's about football," Caleb said.

This is the sixth year Sue Pate has incorporated statistics from the NFL championship game into her math lessons.

An avid football fan herself - one of her sons plays for Fairmont State University and the other for Hurricane High School - Pate said she already was following the statistics in the newspaper.

In a "light bulb moment," she realized the statistics could be a new way to engage her students.

"It's just using math outside their textbooks in a fun and exciting way."  She usually presents the themed lesson the Friday before the big game. Because last week ended with a snow day, she had to settle for a little post-game analysis.

Handing out the Super Bowl informational graphic published in the Daily Mail, she asked students to look at the yearly statistics from the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers, the two teams that played in the Super Bowl.

Students added up passing yards, determined the dimensions of the playing field and figured out how many touchdowns players scored per game.

Gianna Muto, 9, was one of two students in the class not wearing the purple of the Ravens or red of the 49ers. Sporting her Pittsburgh Steelers gear, Gianna said she's also a big math fan. Lessons usually focus on one basic concept, but the football exercise required students to use several different techniques.

"I like it. I feel like you learn more," Gianna said.

It's important for students to see those ideas in different lights, the teacher explained.

Students can grow accustomed to the way problems or topics appear in their textbooks. When Westest - the state standardized assessment - rolls around, students must be able to interpret data presented a little differently.

That helps Pate figure out what she needs to work on, too. She pointed to one student who typically excels in math. The different format provided by the football stats tripped her up a little, the teacher said.

"As soon as you take it out from their normal textbook, it makes them think," she said. "They have to analyze the math they learn."

A Dallas Cowboys fan, Quarrier Phillips, 9, was going to wear his Tony Romo jersey regardless of who won the Super Bowl. He loves football and watched the game but didn't really keep track of stats.

Math is already his favorite subject, but the stats presented by his teacher heightened his interest.

"You really don't get to do that very often," Quarrier said. "You get to talk about football."

Students worked quietly when Pate asked questions and worked together to solve problems. She said she thought the lesson went well and plans to continue to use the Super Bowl as a math tool in the future.

Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or Follow him at


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