Pi Day

by Julie Crookston

When most people here the word ‘pi’ they automatically think of a delicious dessert. However, here at Spanish Fork Junior High students are also taught to think of π, an irrational number. Irrational numbers are numbers that have a repeating decimal that never ends and doesn’t have a repeating pattern and there are millions upon millions of irrational numbers. So why do we dedicate an entire day to π? Two reasons. First, Π is special. Π is the ratio of a circle’s circumference (the distance around a circle) to its diameter. Thus π is used repeatedly in mathematics. Second, who doesn’t want an excuse to eat a bunch of pie?

Fellow math teachers were looking for a way to emphasize the importance of π and help students engage with the mathematical ideas it uses. So a few years ago they jumped on the Pi Day bandwagon. Mathematics teachers offer extra credit to those students who bring a pie to school on Pi day. During each class period all math students come to the Little Theater. Here they are given instructions and broken into groups. They rotate through four different stations throughout the course of the period.

Three of the stations have a mathematical activity planned by the teachers involving π. For example, this year one station listed the price and diameter of different brand name pepperoni pizzas. Students were asked to calculate which pizza was the best deal—which one gave them the most pizza for their money. Students were required to use their knowledge of π and the area of a circle to determine the best pizza.

But what happens to all the pies you ask? At one of the four stations students eat the pies that were brought. This year over 900 pies were donated. Despite much enthusiasm not all pies were able to be consumed. All leftover pies were donated to Tabitha’s Way.

Pi Day has become one of the highlights of the year for the students and teachers at Spanish Fork Junior High. Students are given the opportunity to grapple with the mathematics of π alongside students of differing grades and abilities. They do real world problems that help them see the usefulness of π. And they get to eat a lot of delicious pie. Despite the work required to plan and execute pie day the math department loves Pi Day and the excitement it brings.