March 14 is Pi Day! No, not Pie Day, Pi Day -- the day celebrating the irrational number resulting from the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. Don’t worry -- you can still celebrate with all the cherry filling and meringue you’d like, but Pi Day provides us with an opportunity to explore an important mathematical concept in fun and new ways! Whether you’re throwing a Pi Day party, writing pi across your school, or trying to recite as many digits of pi as you can from memory (the world record is currently 67,890), there’s no wrong way to observe Pi Day!
Pi -- which is sometimes expressed using its Greek letter, π -- is the name we’ve given to the irrational number that comes from dividing a circle’s circumference (the distance around the circle) by its diameter (a straight line dividing the circle in half.) Pi is a mathematical constant, which means that no matter how big your circle, or how long its diameter, you will always end up with pi when dividing the circumference by the diameter. But what is pi? Numerically, pi is 3.14159265359...and it continues. Pi is a never-ending and never-repeating, which is what makes it an irrational number.
So how can you celebrate Pi Day? Here are some ideas -- both small and big scale:
Have a Pi Feast: Perhaps an obvious first choice, but the naturally fractional nature of pie makes it a classic for Pi Day. Have your friends and classmates bring in different flavors of pie, and calculate the circumference and diameter for a fun exercise in the mathematically constant nature of pi! (Bonus idea: don’t limit yourself to pies! Pizza, cookies, cakes, pancakes -- there are so many options! Make sure that you do keep it to perfect circles, however, or the calculation won’t work.) This also makes a great fundraiser after school on Pi Day -- just make sure to sell everything for $3.14!
Use Pi to Write a Story: Whether you have a whole class or just a handful of friends, you can creatively write a story using the digits of pi as inspiration! Start your story with a word consisting of three letters. The next person chooses a word with just one letter, then the next person continues on with a four-letter word, and so on! The varying digits of pi will keep the exercise challenging, and the changing word length will guarantee a fun and funny end result.
Create Pi Art: Assign every student a digit of pi. From there, you can:
- Use a bar graph to turn the digits of pi into a sprawling city skyline, and have each student color in their respective building.
- Create a paper chain with the digits of pi written on each, differently-colored ring.
- Using perler beads, make pi jewelry, where each color bead is assigned a different digit. Now you can wear your love of pi all year long!
Pi Day is also a great opportunity for a Family Night, and get both parents and kids involved in the fun. Consider having a Mobile Ed assembly visit for your Pi Day celebration! Our Imathimation and STEAM Museum shows would both complement any Pi-related celebrations, and provide opportunities for students to see pi in action! Pi Day is all about taking the mystery out of math, and seeing how numbers affect our real world -- in the wheels we use, the clocks we read, and even the pie we eat.
Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi by Cindy Neuschwander
Why Pi? By Johnny Ball