Celebrate Pi Day

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Teachers around the world celebrate Pi Day each March 14.  Although the concept of Pi is typically taught beginning late elementary school, this doesn’t prevent students of any age from participating in and enjoying Pi Day events

Although younger students don’t understand the concept of Pi, they do know some information about circles. Using circles allows even the youngest of students to be involved with Pi Day events. Provide string for students to measure and compare circumference of circles. Use digital cameras to locate and take pictures of circles in unusual places. Some sites share songs for singing about Pi Day. The Math Forum has a printable list of Pi songs set to familiar tunes. Younger students will enjoy learning songs to sing to older students participating in their activities.

For older students, our TeachersFirst Pi Day Resources is a curation of 21 resources from our site considered by our editors to be the best of the best. Browse through to find many ideas including videos, gameplay, and an interesting math activity based on the Simpson’s TV series. Some additional resources include:

  • Each year, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology presents its Pi Day Challenge, providing students and the public an opportunity to solve some of the actual problems facing NASA scientists and engineers. In addition to the current year’s discussion questions, this site contains problems from previous years. The NASA site also includes extensive  information on how NASA employees use Pi every day.
  • Students will enjoy this YouTube playlist with songs that relate to Pi. Try playing these while working on Pi Day problems and other activities. Songs include Don McLean’s American Pie and R.E.M’s Perfect Circle. Challenge your students to find additional music that fits in with your celebration!

Not everyone loves Pi Day, in fact, there are several articles disputing the importance of the day. Try sharing these with students to debate why we celebrate this day and whether they agree with the authors.

  • 3 Reasons Pi Day is a Sham refutes three popular claims of Pi lovers. After reading the article, have students debate whether the author, Nsikan Akpan, is the Grinch who steals Pi Day.
  • Well-known mathematician, Vi Hart, takes on Pi Day through a series of videos beginning with this one, Pi is (still) wrong. Be sure to check out her other videos for 2015 and 2016;  hopefully there will be a new one for 2017!

Just for fun, here is a trick to share with students. Did you know if you write 3.14 and place it next to a mirror and view the reflection you see the word pie? Challenge students to do this trick without sharing the photo. Can they figure out how to do it on their own?

Just the mention of Pi (or pie) can bring interest to any classroom. One obvious way to celebrate is to allow students to bring in pies to celebrate Pi Day, then compare and contrast the circumferences. Check with local pizza companies to see if they offer special rates for Pi Day. If you can’t eat pie, have an in-class challenge. Set a timer for 3 minutes and have students list as many words as they can that relate to pie. Have students bring in donations for a local food bank with the winner celebrating by smashing a pie in the face of a willing administrator.

Students across the world look forward to celebrating Pi Day. What is your favorite activity? We would love to hear your ideas in the comments below.

 

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About the author: Sharon Hall

Sharon Hall was a recipient of the Presidential Award of Excellence in Math teaching. With over 15 years of classroom experience as a National Board Certified teacher, Sharon shares her content knowledge and reflections on ideas for basic classroom technology integration with us.


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