Picking the Best Piece of Pi

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On Pi Day, I shared my own pi creation, and offered a nifty pi clock to the person who posted the best comment on how she or he celebrated Pi Day. I also strongly hinted that posts from educators might receive extra special consideration.  The responses were absolutely inspiring, proving again how many fantastic teachers we have in this country.

A couple of teachers who posted below sent me photos of their young pi enthusiasts. Robin Loy of Adair County High School in Columbia, Kentucky shared this picture of their Living Pi:

Jill Noreman, a teacher at JFK middle school in Bethpage, NY sent along this picture of students enjoying pi shaped cookies baked by other students in the school. The kids also memorize pi to hundreds of digits:

Some teachers introduced me to ways to celebrate Pi Day that I had never heard of before, such as the Cadaeic Cadenza and Sir Cumference (he certainly wasn’t around when I was in middle school). Still others told inspirational tales about students for whom English is a second language who made presentations about pi to teachers, administrators, and other students.

Of course there were entries that had little to do with education. But while the crop circles and the Rebecca Black parody were, um, interesting, I had to be true to my roots. And I had a hard time picking my favorite.

So I asked my mom which one she liked best.

She steered me towards the comment from Kathleen Ingalls of Hancock Central School in Hancock, NY. Kathy described her 15-year-old Pi Day tradition this way:

For the past 15 years I have been creating the (approximate) value of pi in my math classes. Each student receives a 4-inch square of colored construction paper. The squares are color coded so each digit is represented by a different color. Each student writes the corresponding digit on his/her square and decorates it in any school appropriate manner. The digits are glued (in order, of course) to a black background and each year’s addition is laminated. The string of digits now starts at my classroom and continues through three hallways in our school. We are nearing 1000 digits. (I have many former students that return on pi day each year to add more digits. In fact, one former student has added a number 14 out of the 15 years. She currently teaches in our school which makes it easy for her!)

My Algebra 2 students each have to write an ode to pi. These are “judged” by our English department and prizes are awarded on pi day. I also have other classes create posters and pi-mobiles which we display around the school.

And here’s what my mom had to say:

“I was very impressed that her project had gone on for 15 years and had 1000 digits.  Each kid would know which one was their digit since they had decorated it themselves and would be bound to notice it every time they walked down that hall.  The fact that kids come back shows they own it. And those kids see pi EVERY day of the school year based on their Pi Day celebration.”

Both of us liked that at Hancock, Pi Day isn’t just about math class—the English teachers also get involved.

So Ms. Ingalls, congratulations! You win the clock.

But really, we’re all winners here. That’s why I’ve decided that all of the people who didn’t win the clock will receive a package of fun UCS scientific integrity giveaways, including 2012 calendars, science silly bands,  cartoon magnets, and food-shaped stress balls. Teachers can distribute these items as they see fit. I’ll be following up early next week with each commenter privately.

Next week, we’ll get back to talking about the FDA. But for now, I’d like to send a big thank you to all of the teachers out there who are preparing kids for careers in math and science, and preparing other kids to understand how to make sense of the math and science they encounter in their everyday lives. Teachers empower young people by giving them the skills they need to cut through misinformation and get closer to the truth. Our country needs you, and we don’t say thank you enough.

Posted in: Scientific Integrity

About the author: Michael Halpern is an expert on political interference in science and solutions to reduce suppression, manipulation, and distortion of government science. See Michael's full bio.

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  • Claire D

    I know pi day is over, but I need to share.I started celebrating pi at my school 9 years ago, and I too have students come back to visit on Pi-Day wearing their geeky pi shirts! This year, I used my Pi-shaped cookie cutter to cut out pi-shaped tortilla pieces. I had my slow cooker keeping my bean dip hot. Students had beans and cheese with pi-shaped tortillas! Each year students bring in their pies, and I like to have a savory option…

  • Kathleen Ingalls

    Thank you for choosing our pi day traditions as the winning entry. I’m sure my students will be thrilled too. And your Mom is exactly correct. The students do “own it” and love to brag about their number and see the numbers of friends and family members who graduated in past years. I certainly hope that they will all remember pi and truly grasp the concept of an irrational number as they see it spread down the halls. It was great to see everyone’s ideas and to know that pi day celebrations are happening all over. Again, thank you.

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