Teaching & Learning

This 2nd Grade Class Picked One of the Best March Madness Brackets in the Nation

By Caitlynn Peetz — April 17, 2024 2 min read
UConn guard Hassan Diarra (10) scores past Purdue guard Myles Colvin (5) during the second half of the NCAA college Final Four championship basketball game on April 8, 2024, in Glendale, Ariz.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

What are the odds that a class of 2nd graders filled out a better March Madness bracket than you?

Surprisingly good, actually.

Like more than 23 million other people, the 18 2nd grade students in Matt Falcone’s class at Olive Chapel Elementary School in Apex, N.C., filled out an NCAA basketball tournament bracket in early March. But while millions of people watched their picks lose and their brackets get busted, Falcone’s students spent the next three weeks watching their bracket rise in the rankings—all the way up to fifth place in the entire country on ESPN’s bracket leaderboard for the men’s tournament.

“It really was a shock for all of us,” Falcone said Wednesday in an interview with Education Week. “This thing that I thought was just going to be a little fun turned out to be super duper amazing—more than I ever expected.”

Of the 61 matchups in the bracket, the class picked 49 right, and nearly all of the games they got wrong were in the tournament’s opening round.

There was no science or trick to the kid’s picks, Falcone said. It was much the opposite, actually.

For each game, Falcone asked the group to, with a show of hands, choose between the two teams. Whichever one received the majority of the votes advanced in the bracket.

Usually, students picked local teams, like Duke and North Carolina State, or their parents’ alma maters. Sometimes, they chose the team with the better mascot. To break the few ties that happened, Falcone simply flipped a coin.

“It really came down to just a vibe check, like, what is everyone feeling like going with, and when we were done, I looked at it and was like, ‘This is definitely a bracket made by 2nd graders,’ but it didn’t matter, it will still be fun,” Falcone said. “Then, it just kept being right and moving up and up in the rankings.”

2nd grade students in Matt Falcone’s class at Olive Chapel Elementary School in Apex, N.C., picked 49 of the 61 winners in the NCAA basketball tournament.

Olive Chapel is a year-round elementary school in the Wake County public school system, so instead of one long summer break, students are dismissed for shorter breaks more frequently. One of those breaks came as the tournament progressed, and, rather than unplugging completely from work, Falcone was excited to post updates on the bracket’s progress for families and students.

The bracket exercise was just intended to be fun and wasn’t tied to lessons. Truthfully, Falcone said he never expected his class to have so much success.

But it just goes to show that even when the odds are slim—the NCAA describes the odds of choosing a perfect bracket as “practically zero"—sometimes they’re in your favor.

The experience has also reinforced for the students that there’s no harm in trying something new, Falcone said.

“It’s like, whatever happens, happens, and if it’s something good, that’s fantastic and if it’s something bad, at least we tried,” he said. “I think it’s taught them a little bit about never giving up because you never know what can happen.”

Although the class won’t get any official rewards from the NCAA for its fifth-place finish, Falcone said he plans to celebrate with his students when they return from break next week, perhaps with a pizza party, or maybe ice cream sundaes.

As for Falcone’s bracket that he filled out individually, without his students?

“It was garbage,” he said. “I definitely needed the class.”


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning
Budget & Finance Webinar Staffing Schools After ESSER: What School and District Leaders Need to Know
Join our newsroom for insights on investing in critical student support positions as pandemic funds expire.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Achievement Webinar
How can districts build sustainable tutoring models before the money runs out?
District leaders, low on funds, must decide: broad support for all or deep interventions for few? Let's discuss maximizing tutoring resources.
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

English-Language Learners Quiz WIDA's Test for English Learners: Try Sample Questions
The WIDA ACCESS test is an assessment used by close to 40 states to determine if students must remain in English learner programs.
1 min read
Laptop Checklist 052024 1251676666 [Converted] 01
English-Language Learners What All Teachers Should Know About WIDA's Test for English Learners
Researchers and specialists say general education teachers play a role in helping English learners' language development.
7 min read
ELL Girl Laptop 052024 176654360
Marilyn Nieves/Getty
Reading & Literacy Q&A A New Plan to Raise the Lowest Literacy Rates in the Nation
Daily summer reading instruction for thousands of students is part of a bigger plan to improve literacy in New Mexico.
5 min read
Arsenio Romero, secretary of New Mexico’s Public Education Department, addresses the audience at the Albuquerque Earth Day Festival on April 21, 2024.
Arsenio Romero, the New Mexico secretary of education, speaks at the Albuquerque Earth Day Festival on April 21, 2024. Romero is leading a statewide effort to improve literacy.
Courtesy of New Mexico Public Education Department
Teaching Profession Should Class Feel Like Entertainment? Teachers Have Mixed Feelings
Teachers on social media give their opinions on whether entertaining is a necessary part of their job.
4 min read
An eighth-grade math teacher demonstrates a lesson called “math golf.”
An eighth-grade math teacher demonstrates a lesson called “math golf.”
Allison Shelley for All4Ed