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Pi Day comes once a year on March 14. It is a special day for a few reasons. The day itself can be written as the abbreviation for the number pi: 3.14. It also happens to be Albert Einstein’s birthday. I used to love pi day with my students because it gave me a day to review and expand the number pi which we had been using to find the area of circles. It was also one of the few times I could give my students some creative activities to do for a math “report”. Many of you who are teaching math are so overwhelmed with lesson plans, administrative requests, and grading papers that you don’t have the time to find fun activities to do on Pi Day so I’m going to describe a few of the simple ones and give you the link to the two websites that I found in case you want to explore for yourself.
Activities 1-4 were found on this website. You can check the site to see all of the ones that they have.
1. Cut construction paper of different colors into strips that your students can use to make a chain. Each color will represent a different digit in the number Pi so you will need nine different numbers. Depending upon the age of your students you may want to limit the chain to a certain number of decimal places. If you rotate classes you might start in your first class and continue until the end of the day to see how long a chain you can get.
2. Similar to the first suggestion, if you are a crafty person you can get plastic beads in nine colors and have your students string the beads to map out Pi until they have a long enough string to wear on their wrist.
3. You can read “Sir Circumference and the Knights of the Round Table” to introduce circle vocabulary and “Sir Circumference and the Dragon of Pi” which describes the discovery of the number Pi.
4. If you have the time to plan this you can put together a Pi trivia quiz.
Activities 5-7 were found on this website. There are a few higher-level activities that you might want to check if you teach advanced math or upper high school math classes.
Activities 5-7 came from another website that has additional activities.
5. Einstein Pi is another activity to try. Since Pi day is also Einstein’s birthday you can have students make a display or poster about his life, his scientific discoveries, and famous quotations. This activity might also include poems and handmade birthday cards for him. This activity takes Pi day out of math class and into other subject areas.
6. For older students you can recreate Pi with the following steps. Archimedes and other mathematicians used the method described here to find the area of a circle. Place a regular polygon inside and outside a circle. It is best to start with an inscribed hexagon and find the shape’s area. Then derive the value of pi as if it equaled the circle.
7. Have enough index cards for each member of your class. Write two digits of pi on each card in large print. The first card will have 3. and after that, the rest will have two digits. Scramble the cards and hand them out. Then have the students line up in the order of Pi. You can show the first 70 or so digits of pi on an overhead projector. When they are in order have them read their cards out loud. Challenge them to see how quickly they can read them aloud.
If you have any Pi Day activities you would like to share or if you try any of these please leave them in the comments.