The Bow Tie Boys

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Pi Day

Two days ago was pi day, arguably one of the nerdiest days of the year. In schools all across the country, kids bring in varying types of pizza and dessert pies, and memorize digits of pi, all in the name of one number, 3.14. Pi is one of the most recognizable constants in math, being the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. There is such enthusiasm on pi day that is unmatched throughout the rest of the school year. This number, which otherwise would be looked down upon as boring, is looked up to with energy.

I know personally from experience how hype pi day can get. Pi day brings excitement and energy to something that is honestly quite boring. Even though pi day this year was snowed out where I live, all of the festivities have been rescheduled. Pi day does something incredible. It makes something otherwise considered lame amazing.

The question that emerges from pi day to me has nothing to do with pi. It is why can't everything be like this at school. Not necessarily the parting aspect of it but the fact that pi is made fun and interesting on pi day. I think the first way to do this is for teachers to have this enthusiasm. If a teacher isn't excited about what they teach, then most kids will feel the same way. Many kids in many instances do not want to work and learn if they bored out of their mind, with no motive driving them. "All kids can learn, if they want to learn" (Seeking Diversity, 1992). Bringing enthusiasm to the class room, yet not so much that it is cliché, can make learning a better experience. But just that isn't enough to replicate the effects of pi day. Everything taught needs to feel special. New information can't feel like it is just mixed in with everything else, it needs to stand out, yet still connect with everything else. Pi for example, is unique as it is an exact value for the ratio for a circumference to diameter, yet, it connects with other geometric figures such as spheres, and pi is used in many formulas. If things taught are made so isolated from everything else, then the course doesn't seem connected and related. One way to make everything special is with a fun twist on the topic. Obviously, every single concept taught in school can't have its own day with parties like pi day, but everything can have their own wow factor. Pictures, jokes, mini field trips, and other fun activities can ascend a lesson from normal, to unique and engaging. One activity is from the movie Dead Poets Society. The teacher, Mr. Keating, tells the boys to step on to his teachers desk to view the room from a different point of view, illustrating the use of lenses and lens theory, in a unorthodox manner. Lessons like those that differ from one another makes each lesson, as well as the content new and exciting. It also give something to relate the material to. Students could say things like ,"oh yeah, we learned that when we did the field trip." By having something to link material to, like a symbol or activity, will further increase the endurance of that knowledge.

An example of one of those activities that I have done this year was for science. The activity was a mini field trip to a creek in walking distance to the school. Once at the creek, we had to calculate discharge of the creek, or how much water flows through it at a certain time. By doing this lab, and a unique activity in order to complete it, I guarantee I could ask any of my classmates how to calculate discharge and all of them would not only know how, but also talk about the lab we did calculating discharge. There are so many different activities that can make things unique and memorable, it is really up to the teacher which one they want to employ.

I hope everyone can take something from this blog and implement it into their own classroom. And to all, happy belated pi day!

Dead Poets Society. Dir. Peter Weir. Perf. Robin Williams. 1989. DVD.                         

Rief, Linda. Seeking Diversity: Language Arts with Adolescents. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Educational, 1992. Print.



  1. Thank you for this wonderful post Joe. I've never heard of "Pi Day" but I am really intrigued by your excitement and description. You are so right about teacher enthusiasm Joe... it WILL have a big impact for better or for worse on student learning. Thank you so much for emphasizing this important point!

  2. Joe,
    Teacher enthusiasm, hands-on learning that is engaging, and some wow factor! None of those cost money but would cause a teacher to reconsider his/her presentation/style and learning targets.

    I can't imagine how mind-numbing it would be from a teacher lens to do the same unimaginative lesson/format day after day! I think even starting with the "Top 5 Quirky Facts" in any content area could bring a bit more energy to the learning.

    Thanks for making me think!