Rio Grande students compete in annual Multiplication Challenge

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Thirty students faced off in head-to-head competitions for the chance to multiply their way to the top of the Rio Grande Elementary Multiplication Challenge.

Destini Harrington swept Thursday’s competition as the grand champion after battling fellow sixth-grader Jennifer Renteria for the title.

Abigail R. Ortiz-News-Bulletin photo: Two Rio Grande Elementary School students scribble down numbers in an attempt to solve the multiplication problem they faced in the eighth annual Multiplication Challenge. In total, 30 students, from third grade through sixth grade, competed.

Harrington, who didn’t miss any problems during the challenge, won after taking two stabs at solving the problem.

“I feel happy and, like, excited. It was unexpected,” Harrington said.

For the past month, Harrington has practiced her multiplications at school and every night at home. She said she was “kind of nervous” during the final face off, but kept her concentration focused with deep breaths.

Taylor Matsu took third place.

The eighth annual challenge left a gymnasium full of students and audience members on the edge of their seats, shifting around and whispering during each problem.

For each problem, two students, from third through sixth grade, were called up to large white note pad.

“Your problem is 441 times nine,” the referee said as students jotted down the problem that stood between them and moving onto the next round. “Turn and face your audience. Begin!”

Students frantically jotted down numbers on the note pad, quickly adding numbers on their fingers or in their heads, to come to the answer they thought was correct. The note pads students used to display their work faced the audience.

A judge held up a white dry erase board with the answer displayed in black ink. The referee swiveled back and forth between the contestants, watching for the correct answer.

Abigail R. Ortiz-News-Bulletin photo: This year’s Multiplication Challenge winners at Rio Grande Elementary School were, from left, third-place winner Taylor Matsu, second-place winner Jennifer Renteria, and grand champion Destini Harrington.

For the quick scribbling participants, a referee stood watching one student while Rio Grande Principal Barbara Thoms observed the other student to pinpoint which one solved the problem first.

Audience members clapped and cheered for winners, while consoling those who lost. Each participant was allotted two losses before being eliminated.

This is the second year the challenge uses a head-to-head competition format with increasing difficulty in multiplication problems, including three digits times one digit, two digits times two digits and three digits times two digits, said Joe Castillo, event coordinator and challenge referee.

“I wanted to make the challenge a competitive, colorful and exciting event,” Castillo said.

To earn a spot in the challenge, students had to win their classroom elimination. From there, four third-grade students, eight fourth-grade students, six fifth-grade students and 12 sixth-grade students advanced to the challenge.

Each student wore either a blue, green, yellow or orange T-shirt depicting their grade level and participant number.

Thoms said the challenge highlights the attitude teachers and students carry of “Yes, we can!”


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.