My students celebrated Pi Day on Pi Day Eve. Every year, I give students a Pi Day greeting card summarizing a brief history of pi. When I ask them, “Why is pi slightly larger than 3? Why isn’t it a little bigger than 7? Or 20? Why pi?” the trend continues – I get lots of answers and most of them are completely wrong. It’s worth it to talk about pi, even to students who should already know why pi is pi.
This year, I created “The Ultimate Pi Day” ThingLink, and included both conceptual and novel pi resources. To me, the most powerful resources of “why pi is pi” are the simple Vine video by Nat Banting, and the Approximating Pi Desmos link. Playing the Vine, then the YouTube video about Pi (in 3 minutes and 14 seconds) and ending with the Desmos approximation provided a powerful conceptual combo for students. These links are labeled 3, 1 and 4 below.
We also had some fun finding our birthdays in pi, listening to pi music, and ending with a memorizing digits of pi contest. I know, I know… this is impractical and some may poo-poo this kind of contest, but let’s loosen up a bit about it all. I don’t think we’re imparting some deep-seated theme that math = memorization here if we balance the activities. Have a little classroom fun, folks. They’re middle school kids, and they eat this stuff up.
Take Nick. He memorized the first 100 digits of pi, determined to win an autographed Pi print graciously sent to our class by artist Michael Albert. THANK YOU MICHAEL!!! Like many kids these days, he took the task to heart and did the natural thing… he googled “How to Memorize Pi” and found this video on Youtube:
Nick learned the phonetic alphabet and applied this very (complex!) strategy to his pi memorization. He didn’t simply memorize digits – he learned a brand new language, and used it to recite 100 digits of pi. I was absolutely floored. This kid!!!!
And then there was Skye. She and her mother have been working on the digits of pi all week. When Skye mastered the first 80 digits by mentally breaking them into smaller chunks, mom encouraged her to keep going. Together, they also worked on the first 100 digits. To be sure to take the win, Skye learned 103 digits and walked away, proudly, with Michael’s pi print. For the record, Michael sent an entire collection of his autographed prints to us, so the top pi memorizer in each of my classes received a different piece of art.
His generosity was the icing on a Pi Day (Eve) we won’t soon forget.
A Very Happy Pi Day to you!