This is the fifth article in the "Community Service Ideas" series sponsored by St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Math deserves its own day, don’t you think? Join the fun of Pi Day, celebrated on March 14 (3.14) by more and more schools every year. Here are 10 ideas gathered from teachers and the St. Jude Math-A-Thon team that will encourage your students to see the joy and whimsy in math.
- Divide it up!
Pi means circles and circles mean pizza. At least they do with the kids we know! Have a Pizza Pi Party for lunch. Remind your class that the symbol π is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. Have your students measure the diameter and circumference of the pizzas. Clean hands! Then, reinforce a lesson on fractions by cutting each pie into a different number of slices and discussing the ratio that one piece is to the whole pie.
- Host a Pi Day Fundraiser for St Jude.
Sell slices of pizza or pie to students, parents and teachers for $3.14. Or invite students to donate $3.14 to help the children at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® for the chance to throw a whipped-cream pie in the face of a brave volunteer. (We suggest asking your principal!) Pi Day is a great way to kick off a St. Jude Math-A-Thon at your school. Your students will strengthen their math skills and solidify those multiplication tables while raising funds for the kids of St. Jude. Learn more and sign your school up at www.mathathon.org!
The top St. Jude fundraiser at this Tennessee school celebrated by throwing a pie in the gym teacher's face!
- Surprise your students with a math class read-aloud.
The book Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi: A Math Adventure is a perfect choice for a Pi Day read-aloud. The quest follows Lady Di of Ameter and Radius through the castle in search of clues that will help solve this riddle: Sir Circumference has been changed into a fire-breathing dragon and they need the magic number that is the same for all circles in order to change him back! Need more? Here are two cute and quick pi videos to watch: Pi Is Beautiful and The Pi Episode.
- Conduct a Pi Symphony.
Create your own class symphony using pi to structure the composition. Assign each student or group of students a number from 1 through 9 and have each group come up with a musical sound associated with their number. The sounds can be claps, hums, whistles, knocks, beats on a drum or tambourine, or notes on a kazoo, recorder, triangle, or other available musical instrument. Write the first 20 digits of pi on the board and direct students to sound out when you point to their number. Zero can be a rest. Repeat the sequence several times until you get the hang of it, and have a rhythmic tune to show for your effort!
- Write Pi-ku Poems.
Have your students write their own pi-ku poems. Inspired by haiku, these quick poems have a different number of syllables in each line.
It works like this:
First line: 3 syllables
Second line: 1 syllable
Third line: 4 syllables
Here is an example:
- Create a Pi-line Skyline.
Hand out graph paper and colored markers or crayons and have students graph the digits of pi using a bar graph format. Once their Pi-line skyline is created, invite them to color in the sky, complete with Pi in the Sky constellations. We found this inspiring art and math activity on the blog What We Do All Day.
- Go on a Circle Hunt.
Collect and share a variety of objects that are circles or cylinders with your class. These can include coffee cans, soup cans, pie tins, paper plates, bowls, CDs, candles and more. Divide students into groups of two or three and have each group select a circle. Supply a length of string and ruler to each group, and ask them to measure the diameter and the circumference of their circles. Next, have each group calculate the circumference divided by the diameter and share the results. Depending on the accuracy of their measurements and calculations, each group should have a result that is close to 3.14, no matter how large or small their circle. Discuss the results and then celebrate your new understanding of pi with some of those chocolate chip circles kids tend to like.
- ... Or a Pi Word Challenge.
Instead of a pie-eating contest, hold a pi-writing contest in your classroom. Set a three-minute timer and challenge your students to write down as many words that start with pi as they can. Ready. Set. Go!
- Go on a Pi Day Scavenger Hunt.
Send your class or small groups of students on a Pi Day Scavenger Hunt around your school in search of items that represent the digits of pi (3.1415926535). For example, have them find 3 books, 1 piece of chalk, 4 markers, 1 water bottle, 5 erasers and so on.
- Discover this pi secret.
Have students write 3.14 on a piece of paper and hold it up to a mirror. What does the reflection spell? Do your students think that is a coincidence? What other word reflections can you create with combinations of the numbers 1, 3 and 4? Do any other numbers look like letters when reflected in the mirror?