Celebrate Pi Day With These Pi Day Activities
It’s March, which means Pi Day is right around the corner!
Every year on March 14, people around the country recognize Pi Day in a variety of ways. One of the tastiest ways is by enjoying some pie, but the fun doesn’t have to stop there!
Before you start planning how to celebrate and enjoy Pi Day with your students—whether they’re in the classroom with you, learning from home, or somewhere in between—let’s learn about pi and Pi Day, and why it’s such a significant (and fun) day for math enthusiasts all over the world.
What is Pi?
Pi (or π) is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter and is always the same value regardless of the circle’s size.
According to History.com,
“In mathematics, [pi] is crucial because of what it represents in relation to a circle—it’s the constant ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. Pi is also essential to engineering, making modern construction possible.”
History of Pi Day
- In the United States, Pi Day falls on March 14 because the first three digits of pi are three, one, and four. Because other countries write dates differently, other places throughout the world celebrate Pi Day on July 22, or 22/7, which is a commonly used approximation for pi.
- Physicist Larry Shaw first established Pi Day over thirty years ago while working at the Exploratorium, which is an interactive science museum in San Francisco. The first Pi Day took place on March 14, 1988, and involved a circular parade and the eating of fruit pies.
- March 14 is also Albert Einstein’s birthday—a happy coincidence!
Fun Pi Day Activities to Do With Your Students
There are lots of fun and informative Pi Day activities you can do with your students, no matter their age or where they’re learning from.
If you’re in a classroom with students of any age, enjoy circular foods like oranges, pies, pizza, and cookies. Younger students may also enjoy marching in a circular parade.
Some activities that may work well in hybrid classes include hosting a Pi Contest, in which students list out as many kinds of pie as they can think of and share their best pi puns, jokes, and facts. Or establish a Random Acts of Pi initiative that involves students safely completing random acts of kindness that incorporate a pi theme.
And if you’re teaching virtually, create a fun video background that incorporates pi to get your students interested.
And check out our Pi Day activities listed below by grade level.
Early elementary school
- Focusing on circles is a great way to introduce the youngest students to the wide and wonderful world of pi. Watch this video with your students, and then ask them to list out circular objects.
- Print out coloring pages with circles on them (like this one) for your students to color in.
- Create a pi paper chain with looped construction paper. Each digit of pi is represented by a different color, and students can add the loops onto the chain in the correct order.
- You can also turn this into a fundraiser by charging a small fee, say ten cents, for each loop of paper, extending the activity’s reach and allowing you to give back to an organization or charity of your choice.
- If you use Imagine Math with your students, explore Lesson 5, Circles and Polygons in Prekindergarten:
- Activity 2, Animation 1 introduces cool superheroes “Circle Girl” and “Angle Boy.” Watch closely—don’t they seem familiar?
- Activity 3, Animation 1 compares Ruby’s and Oliver’s experience riding bikes with circles and squares for wheels—guess who has an easier time and why?
Upper elementary school
- Have students recite the digits of pi during a game of Simon Says, and prepare to be impressed by how far they get!
- Read Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi with your students.
- Ask your students to write a short paragraph or story that incorporates the digits of pi—students will be practicing writing and math skills at the same time!
- To make it more challenging, tell students each word in the sentence can only have as many letters as the corresponding digit of pi. For instance, the first word in the sentence “Wow, I hear a noise somewhere!” has three letters, the next has one, the next four, and so on.
- Ask students to gather circular objects and tools for measurement like string, yarn, beans, etc. Using those tools, students can measure the diameter and circumference of the circular objects and write them down. Do they see patterns between the diameter and circumference of the objects? Can they predict the diameter based on the circumference, or vice versa? This activity helps students learn more about the relationship between diameter, circumference, and pi, and can be done in both in-person and virtual classrooms.
- Write “pi-ku’s” with your students—or haikus about pi.
- Have your students do a Pi Day scavenger hunt or trivia contest. They can learn more about the history of pi and its importance, and discover works of art and architecture that represent or incorporate pi.
- Ask students to find trees near their home or your classroom, and use a tape measure to find each tree’s circumference and then use pi to determine their diameter. Make sure they note each tree’s species and then consult a tree growth rate table to estimate each tree’s age.
- Do you use Imagine Math with your students? If so, complete the Circumference lesson with your seventh-grade students to learn more about the significance of pi through real-world math problems.
- Ask students to memorize and recite as many digits of pi as they can. The student who can accurately recite the most can earn a circular or pi-related prize.
- Want to make this more challenging? Turn it into a hula-hooping contest! The student who can hula hoop the longest while also accurately reciting the digits of pi wins.
- Are your students especially creative? Have them write music inspired by pi—you can use some already existing songs here for inspiration.
- Have your students use pi to calculate which size pizza from a local pizzeria offers the best value for the money.
- Estimate pi by having your students perform the Buffon’s needle experiment. If you’re learning virtually, students can use the simulator available here.
Sources: Exploratorium. (n.d.). A brief history of Pi (π). https://www.exploratorium.edu/pi/history-of-pi
Holland, B. (2018, August 29). What is Pi Day? History.com. https://www.history.com/news/where-did-pi-day-come-from