Roman Numerals – Fun facts for Super Bowl

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Roman Numerals – Fun facts for Super Bowl

Super Bowl LVIII is coming up!  But if the news and internet had not told you this was Super Bowl “58” …would you know what LVIII meant?

Roman numerals are a bit antiquated, yet the NFL adheres firmly to this naming convention when it comes to the Super Bowl.  Though everything can be figured out with a quick “Google” these days, sometimes it is more fun to just know.  So, if you aren’t sure about Roman numerals, want a refresher, or need a fun fact to share at your Super Bowl party this weekend – this quick lesson is for you!

The Roman numerals system is made up of 7 symbols.  These align with with certain values in our modern day numbering system, as noted below.

I = 1
V = 5
X = 10
L = 50
C = 100
D = 500
M = 1,000

With this short list, Roman numerals can be written side-by-side to indicate any number value.  But to do this, you have to know the rules… and depending on the number you are trying to depict, that might involve a whole lot of math.

The placement of each Roman numeral indicates subtraction or addition from the Roman numeral before or after, respectively.  Sometimes, you may need to add and subtract to come up with the correct combination of Roman numerals.

  • Generally speaking, you can only use 3 symbols consecutively.  Such as III, indicating the number 3.
  • A symbol that is placed in front of another of greater value indicates subtraction.  Such as IV indicating one subtracted from five, giving us the number 4.
  • A symbol that is placed after another of greater value indicates addition.  For example, VIII indicates 5+1+1+1, to give us the number 8.
  • A bar drawn over the top of a letter indicates it should be multiplied by 1,000.  This is called the Vinculum.

LET’S BREAK IT DOWN using our upcoming Super Bowl!

Here you have L indicating 50, V indicating 5, and III indicating 3 – all fairly easy to determine from the original chart.  L is greater than V, so we know that we need to add them together to get 55.  Similarly, V is greater than III indicating addition.  So, we end up with 50+5+1+1+1=58.

Our current Super Bowl is pretty straightforward, so, let’s try that again with a larger number like 3,864.  Using our new knowledge (or refresher course) on Roman numerals, we know that…

MMM = 3,000  (1,000+1,000+1,000=3,000)
D = 500  (no math)
CCC = 300  (100+100+100=300)
LX = 60  (50+10=60)
and IV = 4  (5-1=4)

Therefore 3,864 would be depicted with the symbols MMMDCCCLXIV.

But what about a number that requires a bit more addition and subtraction?  Say, 3,949…

MMM gives us 3,000  (1,000+1,000+1,000=3,000)
CM gives us 900  (1,000-100=900)
XL gives us 40  (50-10=40)
IX gives us 9  (10-1=9)

Therefore, 3,949 would be depicted as MMMCMXLIX.

Now you can play with Roman numerals like a pro.  Maybe even make a game of this during “the big game!”  Have fun!