Once a year an amazing day comes up on the calendar. It is the day that the numbers align so that the date reads 3.14. What is more rare than this date coming up, is when this date (known to math geeks like me) lands on a Friday. The alignment of these two things is a cause for celebration.
As our curriculum continues to become more difficult, standards continue to be raised and time continues to be compressed, I found myself doubting that I would be able to do this day justice this year. But reflection has lead me to the realization that I would do my students an injustice by not celebrating. Pi Day is an opportunity to get students excited about learning (and particularly math) and simultaneously engage in a completely abstract concept (). I figure if our schedule is interrupted at other times in the year for various holidays, there must be time in March to celebrate irrational mathematical existence.
So, how does one go about giving Pi Day proper justice, without throwing academic opportunity out the window? Our day will start with a musical introduction of “American Pi(e)” playing as students enter the classroom. This serves as a hook for the day, as music is not a typical part of our morning routine.
Once students are in, asking about the music, maybe breaking into spontaneous dance, we will start our day. Reading starts our daily schedule, and I believe it is important to maintain some routine even on days of fun. I will substitute my typical read aloud for Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi: A Math Adventure. This allows me to continue my typical response question Friday format, while integrating pi related activities into my time with the students. We can discuss use of mathematical vocabulary, theme, prediction, and plot summations all within this picture book text.
Math is where the major celebration comes into play. I set up stations for students to rotate through participating in a variety of pi based activities. Examples of stations this year include: a paper chain representing the digits of pi using colors to visually represent that the digits (colors) do not repeat, the chance to turn pi into artwork of a skyline, a pi memorization contest, the option to take a favorite song and rewrite the lyrics to include , try their hands at writing a pi-ku, and challenging themselves with various puzzles & problems involving geometric ideas and vocabulary. Of course, the celebration would not be complete without a pi(e) treat and some math to go along with it (fractions, circumference, area, etc).
Each year that I am able to inspire a bit of math excitement in my students is a year that I believe I have made a mathematical difference. As my students make choices about what they want to do to celebrate and express themselves in math class in nontraditional manners I see a different side come out in them. Students who often struggle, find math class success. Students who sit to the side without a partner on other days, become top choices for creative activities. Something changes in math class on pi day that allows everyone to be a math champion, and that I can justify spending a day on in math class.