Friday, March 9, 2012

My day is Pi Day!

We celebrated Pi Day today. I am fully aware that the official Pi Day is March 14 (3.14, in case you don't speak nerd), but we're on Spring Break next week, so we always celebrate the Friday before.

We've been planning for a few weeks now and I'm relieved to say that everything went very smoothly! With over 130 sixth graders, this is the largest group I've ever done this with! Plus it was the day before a break and a full moon, so pandemonium was almost a given. But the kids were soooo excited to have a whole day of fun activities that they were really enthusiastic and well-behaved. We integrated math, art, language, writing, and reading so everyone would have something that appealed to them. Oh, and food. Who doesn't like food?

The rest of this post is going to be logistics for fellow teachers who are looking for their own Pi Day activities, so I won't be hurt if you skip the rest. Most of the stuff we did I found online and pinned to my Pinterest page here.

Me reading "Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi" to a class.
Notice my awesome pi hoodie (ThinkGeek) and Pi bracelet (etsy)!
I made "Passport to Pi Day" booklets for all the kids so they wouldn't ask me "What's next???" eighty-seven million times today. We did five 45-minute rotations, with breaks for P.E., lunch, and one class had their regularly scheduled art time. I left five minutes between each rotation for travel time and catch-up if we needed it. It was just the right amount of time.

These are in no particular order.

Rotation 1 - Math lesson on the area of circles

In my class we used pizza boxes and menus from Famous Joe's, a locally owned pizza place that was kind enough to donate the materials for us. After discussing the derivation of the formula, which we'd done in class previously (If you take the radius of a circle to form the length and width of a square and find the area, that area will fit into that circle 3.14 times), we found the area of their 12" and 16" pizzas, then they got to pick their three favorite pizzas from the menu and calculate the "cost per bite" (square inch) and write a summary of which they would order and why. The cheapest per bite, the large cheese pizza, was $0.07 per bite and the most expensive, the Avery (a yummy concoction with grilled chicken, roma tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and a balsamic glaze) was $0.15 per bite- over twice as much! I made a data record sheet to help them keep everything organized.

Rotation 2 - T-shirt decorating

Everyone brought in a plain, colored t-shirt to decorate with bleach pens instead of boring fabric markers on white shirts like we used to do. I got the idea from several Pinterest posts, such as this one. We learned several things for next year:
1. Don't put the bleach gel on too heavily or it's too hard to rinse off.
2. Use the Science Lab because it has larger sinks to rinse the shirts!
3. 100% cotton shirts in dark colors (with the exception of red) work the best.
4. Leave plenty of space between letters because they do bleed into each other.

I thought the shirts turned out really cute! Mrs. Betts and all the wonderful parent volunteers were real troopers putting up with the bleach stench and cold water all day!

 Rotation 3- Pi Poetry

The awesome Mrs. Benefield came up with several different poetry prompts to inspire pi-related prose. She had rhyming dictionaries for each group and examples of limericks (St. Patrick's Day tie-in there) to get them started. As they shared them with each other, they got to enjoy their pie!

"When I first learned about pi,
I thought I was going to die.
There were so many digits,
I started to fidget,
and looked up in the sky."

Rotation 4- Math lesson on the circumference of circles

Mr. Thaxton read "Sir Cumference and the First Round Table" to his class, then they got to make fortune tellers (remember those?!?) that gave them lots of practice with circumference in a really fun way. This was the first year we did those as a fellow teacher found the activity here

 Rotation 5 - Pi jewelry

Mrs. Armstrong is really crafty, so she did the Pi jewelry. Using colored paper clips from Staples, each digit was assigned a unique color. Then they were given the first 20 digits of pi to put into order on a paperclip chain. Lots of schools do bead or paper chains to see how long they can make it in a day, but I like this because they all get a visual representation of pi to take home with them.

If you have time, you can do a musical clapping game to help them memorize the digits. The kids can sit or stand in a circle and clap-snap at 60 bpm:
3 point.
3 point 1.
3 point 1, 4.
3 point 1, 4, 1.

And so on. They can all do it together, or make it a contest and if you mess up, you're out. Keep going until you have a winner.


Since we had some down time with some classes at P.E. or Art and others weren't, I printed out several geometric coloring sheets involving circles. Everyone got to pick one, color it with colored pencils, then cut it out and glue it to colored paper to make a "Happy Pi Day" card to give to a math geek in their life next Wednesday, the real Pi Day!

All in all, a really fun day. I'm so glad I work with a team that likes to do crazy stuff to keep the kids engaged, and that we have such wonderful parents that send in supplies and volunteer their time so we could all have a great time!

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