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Pi, possibly one of the most famous mathematical constants out there. It tells us the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, and can be approximated to 3.14159. Mathematicians have been trying to calculate Pi to ever increasing accuracy, and with the computational power available to us today we are able to calculate Pi to trillions of digits.
So, why all the fuss about Pi? Apart from the excuse for mathematicians to share jokes around this constant, and the rest of us to break out the baking gear why should we celebrate Pi Day? Well, this magical number appears all around us and Pi Day gives educators a great opportunity to elevate this constant and showcase some ways Pi is utilized in the real world.
Calculating the area of a circle is a common application of Pi. (This investigation from Math Techbook provides a good refresher). However, students might ask, when would we use these calculations? A good starting place might be these activities from Math Techbook, Investigate and Apply Area and Circumference Formulas. The first activity asks students to calculate the length of a string of lights needed to illuminate a Ferris Wheel. Another activity uses Pi to calculate the costs of a new clover leaf interchange.
Then take the discussion a step further a look at calculating the area of three-dimensional objects. This activity from Math Techbook, Develop and Apply Volume Formulas asks students to calculate the number of tiles needed to make a mosaic sculpture from an old bowling ball.
As an extension, have students think through some less obvious circles around them. One example might be pendulums, have students research some pendulums around them and see if they can suggest some other uses for a pendulum. Don’t forget to share your thoughts with us on Twitter and Facebook.
Math Techbook, Grades 9-12, Animation
Area of a Circle
Math Techbook, Grades 9-12, Interactive
Snack Food, Sphere and Cylinders
Math Techbook, Grades 9-12, Core Interactive Text
Math Techbook, Grades 6-8, Core Interactive Text
Math Techbook, Grades 6-8, Hands-On Activity