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Pupils acquire a taste for pi
Vanessa Pickart is a self-proclaimed math geek. So Thursday was a pretty big deal for the fifth-grade teacher.
Pickart came to work at Hampton Oaks Elementary School with a black T–shirt with “3.14” painted on the front. Other numbers graced the back.
“I didn’t have enough room,” Pickart shrugged.
Most people with a basic understanding of math probably knew that Thursday was 3.14 and therefore Pi Day, because that is the number of the ratio between a circle’s circumference and its diameter.
But the actual number is much longer—in fact, the decimals go on for at least 10 trillion digits. Math geeks had to give up counting, and computers are still trying to find the figure.
For the sake of fifth-grade math, however, students just use 3.14 in their equations. And the number showed up often in the day’s activities.
Throughout the five fifth-grade classes at the Stafford County elementary school, students measured all sorts of round objects—baseballs, globes, canned goods, Hula-Hoops, Frisbees, paper plates, bubbles.
While measuring the circumference of a basketball, one boy turned to his classmates and said, “Did you know, guys? It’s always about 3.14.”
“That’s what we want them to figure out,” said math specialist Julie Rhoads.
Fifth-grader Jameson Bolin learned about pi while blowing bubbles and catching the soapy circles on a piece of construction paper.
“Very quickly, before it dries, you have to trace your bubble,” Rhoads told him. “And now you can measure your diameter and your radius.”
But Jameson wanted to blow bubbles through the air without doing any math.
“Can I just have some fun for a minute?” he asked.
“The fun part is learning,” Rhoads replied.
Jameson figured out the equation early on. After measuring the bubble, he told Rhoads, “The answer’s always going to be 3.14.”
“Do you think?” she asked. “We have a lot of testing to do.”
Pi Day wasn’t all about math; students wrote Pi-etry, composed songs, colored pictures and solved crossword puzzles about circles.
“We want to get math in their everyday language,” Pickart said. “We want them to see that math isn’t just for math class.”
The day also showed students that math can be delicious.
Thursday morning, most of the murmured conversations were about measurements, ratios and numbers.
But in the midst of the talk, every once in a while another round object would pop up in conversation as kids debated the merits of key lime or chocolate creme.
They ended their Pi Day with a feast of pies. Parents brought in the circular treats, and the kids devoured them Thursday afternoon.
Then, at 3:14 p.m., two of Hampton Oaks’ principals competed in a pie-eating contest.
As the students wrote in a poster proclaiming the joys of 3.14, “You can never have too much pi.”
Hampton Oaks students prepared for Pi Day with a poster listing the reasons for celebrating 3.14. Those reasons included:
- Apple, blueberry, key lime and chocolate creme. Need we say more?
- One slice of pi is never enough.
- Nothing is better than being a sweetie pi.
Amy Umble: 540/735-1973