Call me a nerd if you’d like, but I’ll unabashedly claim Pi Day as my absolute favorite holiday as a teacher! Obviously, I love the yearly excuse to eat a few bites of every kind of pie imaginable (so much so, in fact, that I’ve started hosting a yearly Pi Day party at my house since I’m not currently in the classroom!), but I’ve also really enjoyed creating an atmosphere of celebration and inquiry around a math topic that is best understood through hands-on work during a “holiday” that isn’t overly (or at all) commercialized.
Each year, I vary the activities I do with my students on Pi Day, but our celebration always includes a pie tasting – I send home a note earlier in the month asking families to consider sending in a pie – and a hands on investigation into the mathematical concept of pi. I’ve written two complete inquiry based resources for Pi Day, or any day that you’re learning about the formulas for calculating a circle’s circumference or area.
In fifth grade, I set out as many circular objects as I can find. I raid my kitchen, my classroom, and even the school gym and music room to collect circles of all sizes. Using a string and meter stick, students measure the length of each circle’s circumference and its diameter and record their work on a chart. The final column of the chart prompts students to use a calculator to divide each circumference measurement by the diameter length. After students measure lots and lots of circles, we discuss the ratio of diameter to length… essentially, we discover pi! You can easily replicate this lesson in your own classroom. If you’d like to use the materials I created, along with a teacher script for leading the discussion, click here to find them in my TpT store.
I definitely believe that Pi Day celebrations at school should include a focus on the mathematical concept of pi, but there are also so many ways to just experience the fun of this nerdy holiday. Here are ten free and super easy ideas for celebrating Pi Day in your classroom:
- Count down to Pi Minute (New Year’s style, of course!) on 3-14 at 1:59 (because 3.14159…). Celebrate with a song…
- Sing “Happy Pi Day to You” to the tune of Happy Birthday. Then sing Happy Birthday to Albert Einstein, who was born on March 14, 1879. (You can search for Pi Day Songs on youtube.com for lots more ideas!)
- Snag this freebie and make copies of the included Pi or Pie? word search puzzle and see who can find the most words.
You can download a free copy of this list along with a word search and pi digits poster here!
Bonus Idea: See if your school library has a copy of Sir Cumference and the First Round Table or Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi, math adventure books by Cindy Neuschwander. These are fun read alouds that introduce mathematical concepts relating to circles!
I hope you have a fantastic Pi Day this year, and I hope you’re able to find big or small ways to incorporate mathematical inquiry into your classroom celebration. Also, I hope you get to eat some really delicious pie!
Have you tried any of these ideas? Or, do you have other Pi Day classroom activities that you love to do? Please let me know by leaving a comment below!