Pi Day Project Ideas for High School

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

Do your students like to celebrate Pi Day when it arrives once per year on March 14th, since the number is equal to 3.14? These three projects will assist you in educating them about one of our most famous numbers.

Why Pi Day?

While many students may recognize the pi symbol and even know that pi is equal to 3.14, many aren't aware that the 3.14 that pi equals is simply the result of dividing the circumference of any circle by its diameter. Since the result is always 3.14, March 14th (3/14) has become known as Pi Day. The following three projects will assist your high school students in learning about this fun, educational, and unique holiday.

Human Pi Chain and Pi Memorization Game

While pi has now been calculated to over twenty trillion digits, it is still debated as to who actually was the first to discover the legendary number. In this project, your students will first research some of the early mathematicians who sought to understand the pi symbol. Your students will then wear these numbers and line up in the correct order. Later your students will have a pi memorization contest (probably not as tasty as a pie eating contest, unfortunately). Believe it or not, the current record for memorizing pi (set in 2015) is 70,000 digits in under ten hours! Many students like to challenge one another to see who can memorize the most in a given time.

Materials: colored markers, Internet access, loose leaf paper, tape

  • Inform your students they are going to be researching some of the early discoverers and researchers of pi.
  • Divide them into five groups.
    • Group One, will be Team Archimedes of Syracuse (possibly the earliest to calculate pi)
    • Group Two, will be Team William Jones
    • Group Three, will be Team Leonhard Euler
    • Group Four, will be Team Georges Buffon
    • Group Five, will be Team Ferdinand von Lindemann
  • Now have them research at the school library or online to learn what makes their respective scientist so important in relation to the pi symbol.
  • Next have each group elect a spokesperson to give a presentation to the class. Then allow anyone to add in any additional comments.
  • Allow your students to debate as to who they think was the most important of the five scientists, as far as pi is concerned.
  • Now, assign each of the groups one string of five numbers from these digits: The first 25 digits of pi are 3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433.
  • Now have each student write their respective numbers on a sheet of loose leaf paper and tape the numbers to their shirts. When they are ready, allow them to work together to stand in the correct order (the teacher can be the first number three and the decimal point). As an option, you can make this much tougher by adding more strings of numbers.
  • Lastly, have a team competition between the five groups to memorize pi to the most digits. Tell them the memorization period will last for one minute. Allow them to recite while you and the other students check the answers (your students will definitely want to help with this process, as this will be a very competitive contest.) Then you can play again with slightly different rules. For example, you could have them memorize for two minutes or more. You could vary the rules and have two players compete head-to-head, while they each have to take turns stating the next digit. The first one to miss loses the battle. Finally, give a small prize to the winning group.

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