Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Pi Day!

March 14. Finally. An ENTIRE DAY dedicated to MATH!  And it's PERFECT for 5th grade!  I started getting the kids excited about Pi day early in March.  Some knew that pi = 3.14, but they really didn't know much more than that.  I could feel the excitement as they entered the room that Thursday morning.  I only had 90 minutes with each class and each minute was accounted and planned for, so we got right to business. Here is an outline of our activities for the day!

1. Quiet morning activity: Write as many digits in pi as you can around a paper plate

I used a paper plate for two reasons: I have 75 kids and they are CHEAP! And, of course, it's a circle.  The directions were on the projector when the kids walked in and they quickly figured out they needed to sit as close to the board as possible so as not to miss a single digit.  I only gave them about ten minutes to make their paper plate.  I wanted them to have something to take home to show their parents as well as something to study from for our Pi contest.  More on that later!  This activity also got them wondering what the heck pi was!  Here are some paper plate making shots:

Allison ended up getting 4th place in our pi contest!

Busy at work making their paper plates!

2. History of Pi

We found a short history of pi in our books, and discussed it briefly.  Many kids were fascinated by the fact that the definition of pi has changed so much throughout history (their teacher was fascinated too!).  I could feel the excitement building now!

3. Measurement of circles and discovery of pi

We briefly discussed using centimeters in our measurement and getting right down to the exact millimeter so that our measurements were as accurate as possible.  This was just a review for them.  We also discussed measuring diameter as going right down the center of the circle as well as reviewed what ratio meant since we were finding the ratio of circumference to diameter.  We did one example together, and off they went about the room.  I had a table full of circular objects for them to choose from, and a chart from to fill in as they went.  While they worked, I walked around and discussed findings, as well as helped troubleshoot when I could tell their measurements were off.  
All the lovely objects we have to measure!  Yes, that is my soap from my bathroom, and my coffee mug :) 

"Ms. McHugh, did you even wash out your mug?"  

Pretty accurate I would say!  

Partners hard at work measuring and loving every moment of it!

What a great day!

4. Discovery

Once we were finished, we had a lengthy discussion about what we learned.  Ultimately, I wanted them to see that the circumference of a circle was about three time its diameter.  We used our knowledge of finding the unknown (all our algebra work is paying off!) to figure out that if you don't know the circumference, but you do know the diameter, you can use pi to help you find it.  There were a couple ah ha moments at this point.  I literally saw the understanding unfold on Ivy's face!  It was neat to see her go through the process of understanding using our measuring activity and finding 3.14 was (about) the ratio each time, to knowing that she could always use that to find circumference.  These are the moments people!  The ah ha moments! :)

5. Short video

We always try to wrap up with a short video from StudyJams, and today was no different.  It gives them a chance to listen to someone else talk about what we learned and they do a great job of putting concepts into real world situations.  If you haven't checked out StudyJams yet, I encourage you to do so!

6. Cookies

On a day like today, you have to have a fun treat!  Every student received a cookie, but don't worry, we found its diameter and circumference first!  YUM!

7. Contest time!
Lastly, I held a digit reciting contest.  I gave them until the next day to see how many digits they could memorize in pi.  It was completely optional and just for fun.  I was so impressed by how many students really got into it, and memorized WAY more digits than I ever could!  Our winner was Cale: he memorized 78 digits!  WOW!

All in all, this will stand to be one of my favorite days of the year.  I think my students would have to agree!

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