By Lee Allen, Grade 5 and 6 Mathematics Teacher
Each year on March 14th (in other words, 3/14!), grade 6 students at The Harley School celebrate Pi Day. This event originated over 20 years ago because I thought it would be fun for the kids to learn about circles in a way that’s different from their daily routine.
Our students are always excited to enjoy this day in a big way with plenty of activities that are perfect for Middle Schoolers.
Before the big week, I ask the kids to work on the presentation of a skit, song, poem, or video to share with others on Pi Day as part of what we like to call “American Pidol.” These works performed for their peers and a panel of faculty judges. You can enjoy an original song and video by Anna Miller, “Gonna Do Some Pi”, as a well executed example of one girl’s work.
In class, several lessons are devoted to activities leading up to Pi Day, including one day where there are 36 stations set up around the room including math problems to solve, such as: “What is the radius if the diameter is 22 inches?” or “What is the area of a circle whose radius is 3 feet?”.
Other examples of Pi-related work include:
- Researching Pi and sharing information with the class.
- A Pi Scavenger Hunt that enables the children to measure the circumference and diameter of a given circular object, and, using a calculator, come up with the ratio (hopefully approximating 3.14).
- Creating an “artifact” of learning using Pi as the subject.
- Making a Pi Day necklace with different colored beads, each representing a number. In this way, kids learn some of the digits of pi by color and by number.
- Writing poetry at the Pi-ku station, where the kids write haiku poems with syllables corresponding to the numbers in pi. For example, 3 syllables, 1 syllable, 4 syllables, 1 syllable, etc.
All of this is engaging for the students and there is real learning going on.
Take a look at the objectives of these activities:
- The children will know definitions of parts of a circle (radius, chord, diameter, circumference, and center).
- They will be able to define pi (the circumference of a circle divided by its diameter, or that a diameter of a circle goes around the circle a bit more than 3 times).
- They will be able to use formulas for circumference and area using both diameter and radius.
- They will know the first 10 digits of pi and a few facts about pi.
- They will use the information to extend and apply their learning.
- They will know how to creatively use words to create their Pi-ku poems.
It is always a terrific experience for the kids to learn more about mathematics in very hands-on ways that connect to other skills and subjects. I love bringing math to life…and we all enjoy eating pi(e) as part of our celebrations, too.