8 inspiring Pi Day activities from educators who make math fun
- K-12 Topics
They may not involve trick-or-treating, heart-shaped candies, or birthday cake, but Pi Day activities can be pretty sweet all the same.
For the uninitiated, Pi Day is celebrated each year on March 14, and it’s an annual commemoration of all things mathematical.
According to San Francisco’s Exploratorium museum, the history of Pi Day can be traced back to 1988 with a novel insight from physicist Larry Shaw: March 14, or 3/14, evokes the first three digits of pi, which are 3.14.
Today, educators far and wide embrace opportunities to bring joy, laughter—and sometimes even a little bit of dessert—into their classrooms. Here are eight inspiring Pi Day activities we’ve collected from around the web.
1. Apply pi to apple pies for circumferences you can eat
Pi is a constant. That means no matter how big or small a circle is, the ratio of its circumference to its diameter will always equal pi. That’s just as true of a perfectly circular 16-inch pizza as it is of a mini blueberry pie.
But it’s much more enjoyable to come to that conclusion through a delicious series of hands-on in-class activities, don’t you think?
It's International Pi Day, a celebration of math. Pi (π) is the symbol used to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — approximately 3.14159.— GA Dept of Education (@georgiadeptofed) March 14, 2022
What kind of pie do you want in honor of Pi Day – apple, chocolate, pecan, or some pizza pie? pic.twitter.com/Zc6trtxq0l
To make matters even more interesting, you can forgo standard units and instead encourage students to measure the circumference and diameter of various circles using regularly sized objects, such as coins or marbles.
2. Encourage students to blast off with NASA
Mark your calendars: NASA is dropping four fresh math problems on March 9, and the budding astronauts in your classroom will want to be a part of this Pi Day challenge. Students can learn about real-world applications of mathematics and put their knowledge of pi to the test as they solve challenges related to space exploration and more. It’s a pretty compelling answer to the question, “Why do we need to know this stuff anyway?”
Save the date: The 2023 #NASAPiDayChallenge lands on March 9 with four new illustrated math problems that get students exploring space like @NASA scientists and engineers.— NASAJPL Edu (@NASAJPL_Edu) February 17, 2023
Details here, plus more ways to celebrate #PiDay on March 14.https://t.co/0BGyb178bl
3. Challenge middle schoolers to do the impossible: Memorize a never-ending number
Because pi is irrational, its decimal never terminates, nor does it repeat—it just keeps going on forever!
Happy Pi Day! Pi is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. It doesn't matter how big or small the circle is, this ratio will always equal Pi!— Science Rendezvous (@sci_rendezvous) March 14, 2022
Did you know?! Although the digits go on forever, scientists have been able to calculate over 30 trillion of them! pic.twitter.com/WixDhgSxHS
But that doesn’t stop Pi Day participants from doing their best to memorize as many digits of this elegant and intriguing number as they possibly can, often taking the form of classroom recitation competitions. To get things started, perhaps you can see who can make it to 10, 20, 50, or even 100 decimal places.
Think your students could use some more inspiration? Tell them about leading memorization expert Akira Haraguchi. According to the Guardian, he recited 100,000 digits of pi in public in 2006. This incredible feat took more than 16 hours!
4. Pair your mathematical celebrations with a crafty activity
Pi’s geometric applications mean that this special holiday is ripe for getting crafty in the classroom. There are lots of different ways you can help your learners explore how circles, spheres, and more can be used to decorate the school.
United Kingdom organization Maths Careers has an easy-to-make Pi Day bunting pattern, and students are free to put their own creative spin on it. Plus, it’s a fun way to get thinking about 3D shapes.
5. Circle the date for Pi Day, and ready your inner wordsmith
Pi Day is meant to be fun, and math teachers aren’t the only ones who get to embrace festive puns during this silliest of celebrations. From morning announcements to whiteboard reminders and classroom warmups, there’s no shortage of ways to bring a little topical pizzazz to your everyday routines. Just be prepared for a few groans along the way.
Once again, Pi day has come full circle :)— Astronomy in Action (@AstroInAction) March 14, 2021
6. Prep your diameter fun facts
Wordplay isn’t the only way to extend Pi Day enthusiasm into the rest of the school day. After all, pi would have never gotten its hard-earned reputation if it didn’t have important real-world applications in just about every subject you can think of. Circles and radii show up everywhere from biology to geography, art class, and beyond.
Think of this as an opportunity for cross-curricular fun!
Happy Pi Day! Have you ever wondered what is the circumference of a three-banded armadillo?— Nina Attias (@AttiasNina) March 16, 2022
In the Pantanal, the armadillos I captured during my PhD had an average circumference of 42.5 cm (16.7 in) which means that they have a diameter of 13.5 cm🤓 pic.twitter.com/JSICVxkILp
7. Get kids excited for academic engagement all year long
Pi Day may be a 35-year-old tradition now, but it didn’t start out that way. It began with an idea, a sense of humor, and a love of learning. Other festivities have been following in its footsteps, including Mole Day, a chemistry-focused celebration that takes place each October.
Likewise, July 20 is International Moon Day, commemorating the first moon landing in 1969.
Pi Day can serve as a model for how to celebrate important events, concepts, and more with playfulness and joy.
8. Tap into Paper™ for additional math support
Paper’s Educational Support System (ESS) has a wide variety of ways to help students gain confidence for life—whether that’s in math or any other subject! Here are just a few ways to incorporate Paper’s math support into your Pi Day celebrations:
- Video: Round out your educational toolkit with learning via video from Paper! Tune in March 14 for a special Pi Day episode of the Holiday Splat Lab at 9 a.m. ET!
- Paper Missions: Students can log in to Paper Missions for self-paced math practice in a fun, stress-free environment.
- Live Help: If Pi Day has piqued your students’ mathematical curiosity, they can access Live Help 24 hours a day and ask any question they want to explore.
Don’t have Paper in your district yet? Check out our Teacher Advocacy Kit to help you talk about the benefits of our ESS with leaders in your community.