It’s pretty awesome that there is a day to celebrate math and that it has a link to a tasty pastry like pie. Also, it’s pretty amazing that I teach 7th and 8th grade math and both grade levels work with pi. Pi day happens to always fall during spring break for us but, that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate it the day or week before spring break. At this point in the year each day we review things from earlier in the year so, I take this celebration as a way to review irrational numbers, volume of cylinders, cones, and spheres, and area and circumference of a circle. Of course, we also eat pie.
I have my students for 2 hours and 12 minutes per day so, that gives us a lot of time to complete these activities. If you try and do all of the activities it will take more than one hour. Also, you can give them some of the activities as bell work through the week leading up to pi day. Due to the fact that this is the week right before spring break for me I really appreciate no prep activities.
Choice board organization for accountability
I organize it on a choice board that looks like a tablet and have students get stamped or colored in when they finish each activity. You can download my pi day day choice board template in this post. One of the activities uses the choice board to ask and answer questions. Of the 9 activities 8 of them are for students to do independently or with a partner. The game in the middle is a whole class game for review area and circumference of a circle. Also, there is a blank template included if you want to write in your own activities.
Here is a list of our 9 activities for the week of Pi Day:
- Finish 4 Circle Mazes
- List 5 facts about Pi
- Search the Digits of Pi
- Rational or Irrational Texting Activity
- Area and Circumference of a Circle Knockout Game
- Memorization Showdown
- Three Act Math-Which Cylinder Has More Volume
- Write a Pi-Ku
- Make an infographic
I love mazes and so do my students. We complete a maze just about every day through out the year in my class. I have a set of three mazes for area and circumference of a circle that I use for Pi Week. These are actually three mazes that the students completed back in November, but we use them as a review this time of year. They can’t remember the answers because it has been such a long time since the first time we did them.
The other maze I use is a maze that I only use this time of year and it is a little more challenging. It has students figure out how much pie is left in a pie tin. They assume that the pies are 1 inch deep so, there is no need to know the formula for volume of a cylinder. I do explain volume of cylinder to my 7th graders so, that they understand why the answers are cubed. You can get this maze for free by sign-ing up for the Free Maze of the Month Club. You will get this maze now and a free maze every month from now on.
They complete the mazes at the beginning of each hour as bell work. As long as they are present each day this is an easy square for them to cross off.
List 5 facts about Pi Day
Junior high students are not good at listing facts. I’m just going to start right there. For this activity that seems so simple I help to make it even more simple by giving them some hints, clues, and websites where they need to find the facts. You can try it without giving them this support. That’s your prerogative but, don’t say I didn’t warn you. You will get some pretty out there “facts” and some kids will just look at the internet for a long time and never right anything down.
After the majority of kids have their facts written you can have them share with each other. You can do this “speed dating” style. Have them stand in two lines facing each other. They get about 30 seconds to share a couple of facts and then they rotate down a person and share with that person. This works for getting them to interact with each other and not just with their friends.
The whole purpose of celebrating pi day is for students to understand more about the concept of pi. This activity will give students an experience with pi that shows just how hard to comprehend pi is. They go to the website and type in any string of digits and it will tell you how many times that string is repeated and where it is repeated. You can have them try significant numbers like their birthday, phone number, or zip code.
The longer the string the less likely it will appear. This gives students a deeper look into pi and a chance to talk about what pi really means.
All their lives students work with rational numbers and then boom, in junior high they meet irrational numbers. The problem is that they have never heard the term rational number so they don’t even know that they have worked with rational numbers. Then in middle school they meet pi, their first irrational number. Then you start to ask them which numbers are rational or irrational and they want to call all numbers irrational.
They think fractions are irrational, negative numbers are irrational, decimals are irrational. It’s like they have built a schema in their brains that anything that is not a regular whole number is irrational. I teach them and work with them on the fact that the only irrational numbers they will work with are pi and imperfect square roots and cube roots.
This activity is designed to help them build a better schema about irrational numbers and of course that includes pi. It is a fun and engaging activity and they will create a texting conversation related to rational and irrational numbers. This gives creative students a chance to shine which doesn’t always happen in math class.
If you have never tried a knockout game this is a great opportunity to try. This game will get the whole class involved and participating. The game is projected on the screen through your computer.
There is a game board and students choose a pie. A question will appear. Everyone answers the question. The answer is revealed and if a student gets it right then they get the points and if they get it wrong they don’t get the points. Everyone answers every question and they keep track of their own points.
There are a few bonuses through the game and students love the bonuses. They can be good bonuses or bad bonuses. I use this game to review and it is a great way to model questions with students. I spend a fair amount of time showing them how to do certain things and working on fixing common misconceptions.
Pi Memorization Showdown
I supply them with the first 20 digits of pi and they have a chance through the week to practice memorizing them. Then at the end of the week we have a showdown to see how can remember the most digits. This is a fun challenge that doesn’t take a lot of time but, adds some competition to the class.
You have probably seen this problem where students have to try and figure out which cylinder holds more popcorn. It is done with a regular piece of paper. The website that I have linked to walks you through it. You could complete this as a whole class or students could do it when they finish everything else, as a challenge.
The website does a good job of explaining the answer and giving additional problems and ideas. You could do it with or without popcorn. Popcorn is an easy treat and kids get really excited when there is food in math class.
Write a Pi-ku
I use to be a 7th grade language arts teacher and I remember writing and learning about Haikus. Well, this gives me the opportunity to do a little bit of poetry in math class. I have seen different versions of the Pi-ku on pinterest and I have made my own.
Have students write a 5 line poem with a theme of pi day. Here are the parameters for the Pi-ku:
- It must have a Pi Day theme.
- The first line has 3 words, the second has 1 word, the third has 4 words, the fourth line has 1 word and the fifth line has 5 words.
- The first line and the last line should rhyme at the end.
Students should not complete this activity until they have done some of the other activities so that they have a background in Pi Day themes.
He is an example poem:
So many digits
Never stops, Never repeats
Memorize it and feel legit
The creativity that some kids shows will blow you away. So much of what we do in math is prescribed for students and this gives them a chance to be creative. It will always help them to remember because they have something memorable to attach to in their brain.
This can be a big undertaking and I only have students work on this if they are finished with all of the other options. It can take a long time and they might not be able to finish, but I think it is a good opportunity for them to try and see what an infographic can do.
Here is an example of pi infographic:
Pikto-Chart is a website where they can make an infographic. They can use the information that they have been gathering throughout the other activities to put on the infographic. They can log-in with the google email account. Near the end of the year I sometimes have another infographic activity and this is a good warm-up for them to see what an inforgraphic is.
Try one thing and eat some pie
I realize that I have shared a lot of ideas and that can seem overwhelming to see of them at once. You don’t have to do so much for pi day. I would challenge you to pick one of the activities and try it for pi day. Most of the activities are no prep and they will get students thinking about pi. Be sure to eat some pie with your students and celebrate Albert Einstein’s birthday, as well. Happy Pi Day!
Here is a link to a discounted bundle of the three paid resources for the Pi Day Choice Board and it includes the board with it.
Join the Maze of the Month Club
Join to get exclusive free math mazes every month!