Enthusiasts around the world prepare for Pi Day. And that goes for the TES too - Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 11 March 2013

At the start, it was merely pie in the sky. The idea of an entire day dedicated to a single number is, after all, almost as irrational as the number itself.


Enthusiasts around the world prepare for Pi Day. And that goes for the TES too

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 11 March 2013


By Adi Bloom

At the start, it was merely pie in the sky. The idea of an entire day dedicated to a single number is, after all, almost as irrational as the number itself.

But for the past 25 years, 14 March has been officially designated Pi Day, celebrating the number that begins 3.14.

It is indicative of the spirit of the day that its very date is, in fact, a mathematical pun (albeit one that makes more sense in the US): the shorthand for 14 March is, in American parlance, 3/14.

Coincidentally, 14 March is also the birthday of Albert Einstein. Some might think the theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate more worthy of celebration than the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, but all things are relative.

The first Pi Day was celebrated in 1988 in San Francisco. In 2009, the US House of Representatives backed its official designation, saying that it “supports…Pi Day and its celebration around the world…and encourages schools and educators to observe the day with appropriate activities”.

And so, as though marching behind the pied piper of Pi, schools and universities began to offer Pi Day activities.

“Pi’s infinite nature makes it a fun challenge to memorise,” Princeton University’s website says, pointing out that Pi has been calculated to more than one trillion decimal places. You don’t have to remember all trillion, however: the current record-holder could recite a mere 67,891 of them.

But the life of Pi Day stretches beyond the purely mathematical. Read the digits 3.14 in a mirror, after all, and you have the word “PIE” – idiosyncratically written, it is true, but who is going to quibble?

Not Princeton University, that’s for sure. Every year, the institution hosts a Pi Day pie-eating competition. This dovetails neatly, if not perhaps stomach-settlingly, with a pie-judging contest, during which Princeton residents determine the best-tasting pie in town. The winner is awarded the grand sum of $314.15.

Still, any anger at being cheated out of a trillion-digit prize can be dissipated during the subsequent pie-throwing session.

While less adept at the competitive ingesting of bad puns, Britain will nonetheless be marking Pi Day, too. At the decidedly non-Pi time of 1.59pm on Thursday, mathematician Marcus du Sautoy will host Pi Day Live, an online event at Oxford University that will encourage participants to calculate Pi using only marbles, sticks and string.

And the TES is encouraging teachers to upload Pi resources and pictures of home-baked Pi pies on to its website. The winners in each category will be announced at 3.14pm on Pi Day.



Pure Pi-etry

One method used by some to remember the first few numbers of Pi is by using a sentence, or a poem (known as a Pi-em) where the number of characters in each word corresponds to the relevant number in Pi. So the first word has three characters, the second word has one character, the third word has four characters and so on. Have a look below at some efforts by us here at the TES. Can you or your class do any better? (You almost certainly can!)

Wow I bake a tasty raspberry in pastry. Beats Mrs Berry, expertly

Jam! I love a snack
(Advisable in packed lunch)
Jam! Yummy sandwich

Raspberry! Beloved raspberry!

Jam! Oh you fruitful hero
Spread so softly
Call for jam!
Wondrous jam!

So tastily delicious

Eaten by millions
Lovingly take a perfectly crafted, a rather enjoyable, jar
Fantastic!
Brilliant!
Jam!

Pop! A bang! A whizz!
Fireworks so loudly burst
Pop again! Blasting! Sparkling! Fizzing! Crackling!

Top of the hillside - dark
Warmed up
Joyful
Time for fun!
Watching… pop!

By nightly blackness
Flash - so exciting!
Friendly time. A gathering enjoyed a lovely, agreeable fun occasion!
Fantastic… Pop!

Resources for you


Pi Day activities

  • A variety of rational resources for an irrational number.

Mathematics: 4 pics 1 word

  • Use this resource – inspired by the popular app – to grab pupils’ attention on Pi Day.

Pi Dingbats

  • It’s a case of say what you see in this spin on the popular board game.

Pi Day notebook file

  • This selection of activities is sure to score Pi marks with your pupils.


Further news resources


First News front page

  • Help your pupils understand the features of the front page of a newspaper.

Write all about it

  • Get students creating their own news report with this step-by-step guide.

What is the News?

  • A sociological and media perspective on what makes an event 'newsworthy'.

On the box

  • Help pupils to write their own TV news broadcast with this handy PowerPoint.

Structuring stories

  • A scheme of work to help students structure news stories.

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