Use Pi Day as a STEM Learning Opportunity
Teachers, we know that Pi Day (March 14th) is already on your calendars and on your radar. This year, possibly more than in any past one, Pi Day offers opportunities to give creative lessons that turn your students’ attention to STEM studies.
As you begin your Pi Day lessons, you will want to spend some time at the start talking about the history of Pi and about how it is used in geometry and the real world.
After covering those basics, it is time to be creative. Here are ideas to use Pi Day to encourage your students to think about STEM studies and future careers.
Stress the ancient and mysterious aspects of Pi. Like the Pythagorean Theorem, Pi’s history can be traced back thousands of years. Babylonians and Egyptians were using Pi about 4,000 years ago. There are also indications that Pi was used by the ancient Egyptians when they were designing pyramids. As a teacher, you can stress that learning about Pi is sort of like joining an ancient secret society that offers ageless wisdom that can still be used today.
Discuss Pi as a number that can never be fully known. To the right of the decimal point, it can roll out to infinity. Are there other ratios and numbers that can also never be fully calculated? Do they have something in common with Pi?
Tie your discussion of Pi to Archimedes. Archimedes, a Greek mathematician who lived from about 287 until 212 BC, was a fascinating figure in the ancient world. He not only explained and worked out the number of Pi and used it to calculate the circumference and area of circles, he also applied it to measuring the properties of spheres, cylinders and spirals. How can those accomplishments be used in mechanical engineering and other STEM subjects?
Ask your students to use Pi to learn more about objects in your classroom, in their pockets, and everywhere around them. Coins, clocks, tennis balls, apple pies and many other common objects can be measured and better understood by using Pi. Pi is literally everywhere. Encouraging students to use Pi to better understand the world around them can be an exciting and eye-opening exercise.
Talk about the future. Yes, Pi has a fascinating past. But what lies ahead? As an extra challenge, ask your students to envision how Pi will be used in the future. Will it have applications in machine design, in AI, in fluid dynamics, in space exploration, in electronic engineering, in self-driving cars, in city planning, maybe even in the fine arts? Ask your students to think creatively and come up with a vision of the future of Pi.
And have some fun too. Order a pizza or a cheese ball and have your students calculate their areas before they start to eat. Creative teachers can have discussions of Pi expand to whatever creative space is available.
All of us at the Student Research Foundation wish you a creative and productive day of learning on Pi Day.
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