Published Online: January 15, 1997

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Multiplication is a skill that must come naturally to many of the young students at Burnt Hill Road/Orchard Road School, a combined elementary school in Montgomery Township, N.J.

A simple glance at all the twins in the school makes counting by twos an easy task.

The school of more than 1,500 students in a partly rural community north of Princeton has 28 sets of twins and one set of triplets. And more twins and triplets are expected to enter the school in the fall.

Basil Smith, a co-principal of the school, says teachers and administrators always have worked hard to treat the twins--and triplets--as unique individuals.

But when you're a school that boasts of having more sets of twins than any other nationwide, people pay attention.

"Up until the news articles, we worked hard at not making a big deal of it," Mr. Smith said of a recent spate of publicity the school has gotten because of its high number of multiple siblings. The school has agreed to do one more television interview, then it's back to normal, he said.

"The first few times were fun," Mr. Smith said of the media coverage the school has received. "But we don't want educationally for there to be any problems for the students."

Fertility experts say a number of factors may have contributed to this outbreak of multiple births in Montgomery Township, an upper-middle-class community in Somerset County.

In recent years, the proportion of twins and other multiple births has sharply increased throughout the country. And couples with higher incomes are more likely to take fertility drugs, which lead to more multiple births.

"I think it's just the luck of the draw," Mr. Smith said. "A lot just have a family history of twins."

He was pleased, however, to hear some parents of twins, when interviewed for one of the stories done about the school, say they moved to Montgomery for the high-quality school system--not because the elementary school had a lot of twins.

Parents are allowed to choose whether they want their twins in the same class or separated. Most want to keep the siblings together when they're young and separate them when they hit the upper elementary grades.

While most of the students don't wear identical outfits, Mr. Smith said he still does a few double takes now and then.

"I play it safe," he said. "I call them Mr. or Miss."

--LINDA JACOBSON

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