Hello, reader! If you intend to post a link to this blog on Twitter, be aware that for utterly mysterious reasons, Twitter thinks this blog is spam, and will prevent you from linking to it. Here's a workaround: change the .com in the address to .ca. I call it the "Maple Leaf Loophole." And thanks for sharing!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pi Day 2009

For the third year my math department put on what can only be called an extravaganza for Pi Day. Why? It's fun. It generates authentic interest in math, of the "what's the big deal?" variety, and opens opportunities for us to discuss and teach about pi and math history in our classes.

The centerpiece of the festivities are three options assemblies held during the school day. ("Options", meaning, no one is required to go, but students are free to go if they have a coincident lunch, study hall, or their teacher during that period takes them.) For the past two years we have filled the auditorium to capacity. For three periods. For an optional math assembly.

The assemblies all follow a similar script. After the audience is seated and latecomers are finding seats, a band played this year's song called "All the Round Things" (a parody of Blink 182's "All the Small Things"). Both students and teachers wrote and performed the song this year.

Next, we conduct a game show styled after TV's "1 vs. 100", wherein a faculty member (not a Math teacher - this year they were all English and Social Studies) faces off against 30 students armed with clickers. We write the questions to be challenging but do-able for the students, and select faculty to 1. be funny and trash-talk the students and 2. with secret math/science backgrounds. The teacher usually wins.

Toward the end of the assembly we hold our digits of pi memorizing contest. Students sign up ahead of time who have memorized a minimum of 50 digits. During the first assembly, 5 students write as many digits on whiteboards on stage as they can in 3 minutes 14 seconds (while music blares and the crowd cheers). During the second assembly, a different 5 students do the same thing. All of the assembly participants get a certificate for a free pizza from a local place that donates them.

During the third assembly, the winners from the first two assemblies face off head to head. They each get a microphone, and alternate saying digits of pi until someone makes a mistake and can't go on. The competition this year took a dramatic turn, as the two finalists from last year both won their writing portion, so the final round was a rematch. After reciting over 180 digits perfectly, last year's champ made a mistake, and a new champion was crowned!

So that's what we do. It's a fair amount of work for several teachers, but we delegate. Examples: one person ran a t-shirt design contest and got the t-shirts made, 2 people wrote game show questions and set up the clicker software, one person liaised with the AV crew and custodians, and a million other things. It all got done and we had a great time.
What does your school do for pi day? We are always looking for ideas to make ours better!