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Celebrating Pi Day 3/14/15 for preschool through early elementary

Pi Day of the Century

Pi Day of the Century 2015 sign

Pi Day of the Century sign

This Pi Day, Saturday March 14th, is an epic day for engineers, mathematicians, and other number crunchers. As Edutopia.org points out, on Pi Day this year, 3.14.15, at 9:26:53, the date and time will reflect the first 10 digits of Pi (3.141592653). This math/date convergence happens only once per century.

We are sure that there will be a lot of Pi Day celebrations for high school students and college kids. Though, we wanted to make sure that preschoolers and young elementary students could get in on the act. Resources below about how to get little ones excited about Pi.

A long list of simple Math, Circle and Pi Day Activities for pre-school, kindergarten, and early elementary students. (PDF) Compiled by Kimberly Wilder, based on the book Circles by Catherine Sheldrick Ross.

What is Pi?

Pi explained for grown-ups and upper level students…

“Pi is the symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle [the outside measurement] to its diameter [measuring  a line through the center of the circle]. Whatever the size of a circle, if you divide its circumference by its diameter you will always get 3.14159…, better known as pi…Pi is an irrational number, continuing infinitely without repeating.” From: The National Council of Mathematics Teachers

Pi explanation for preschoolers…

[Display a circle.] When we study math, we talk a lot about numbers and counting. Though, there are other important parts of math to study. Thinking about shapes is a part of math. [Use gestures, string, and/or scissors to show going around the circumference of a circle, and cutting the circle in half.] Mathematicians use a special number when they think about measuring circles. That number is Pi. [Display the symbol for Pi.] Pi is a kind of formula or tool that can help people measure and solve puzzles with circles. People celebrate Pi Day as a way to celebrate how useful it is. And, some people also like Pi because it is a huge number that goes on and on forever, so it is fun to try to remember as many of the numbers as you can.

Some possible angles to steer your themes and learning objectives:

Recognizing Circles. Look for circles in picture books, nursery rhymes, poetry, and art. Identify circle-shaped objects in the environment. Play circle games, like “Duck, Duck, Goose”…or is that “Circle, Circle, Pi”?

Measuring Circles. Study ideas about circles by measuring circumference and diameter with string, etc. Compare sizes of circles. Discuss circles in three-dimensions (ie: globes and balls).

Community Helpers. Talk about people who use Pi to do their work. Study scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and/or artists.

-Celebrate Einstein’s Birthday. Albert Einstein happened to be born on March 14th. So he was born on Pi Day. And, as a physicist, must have relied on Pi for some of his calculations. Einstein was born March 14, 1879.

Celebrate the idea of Math. Notice where math helps to solve problems.

Celebrate and decorate…with numbers, shapes, symbols, formulas, and other match artifacts.

Pi Day links and resources:

Piday.org – a good web site for explanation and ideas

Kindergarten Pi Day Activities article

Mensa Pi Day post – Pi Day info, songs, activies, and video links at Mensa dot org (also follow through to the Mensa kids site)

Joy of Pi – Interesting and full of facts, created by a person who adores Pi.

Edutopia post with links (also mentioned/linked in text above)

“Do Not Open Until Pi Day” packet for students
idea by Kimberly Wilder

Since Pi Day falls on a Saturday, consider giving students a “Do Not Open ‘Til Pi Day” take-home. The packet can include a baggy with a food treat or a craft activity inside. For the top of the bag, you can create a foldover paper label or “bag topper” such as people use for do-it-yourself party favors. (See sample bag topper with another theme: here.)

Some ideas for your Pi packet:

-Circle Pretzels (Check school rules and individual allergies for food items.)

-Circle shaped cookies and/or symbols in the shape of Pi

-A set of colorful, varied size circle shapes to create with

-A homemade puzzle in the shape of a circle, or in the shape of the symbol for Pi


More Pi Day ideas and activities:

-Hold a parade that marches in a circle.

Craft Ideas:

-A bracelet with circle loops
-Make mini-pies or pudding pies decorated with the Pi symbol
-An old fashioned paper chain with circles of colored paper. For a challenge, students could put one of the digits of Pi on each loop, and put in order.

Math Activities:

-Discussions about ways to cut up a circle/share a pie (use paper plate shapes)

-Use a ruler or string to measure the circumference and diameter of circles. Compare circles using circumference or diameter of each circle.

Literature/Children’s Books for Pi Day

Many of the specific PI books are geared to upper grades. Though, using stories about circles and/or baked pies is a great choice for preschoolers.

Book for age 3-years-old and up: The Shape of Things by Dayle Ann Dodds, Candlewick Press, 1994. This book is very poetic, and has beautiful pictures. “A circle’s just a circle, until you add some lights…chairs high and low” (And, then it is a Ferris Wheel)

Book for age 3-years-old and up: Shapes Around Me series, Circles by Anita Loughrey, QEB Publishing 2010. Some activities include counting circles in a picture scene of a kitchen, a street scene, a backyard scene.

An easy, picture book series: Spot the Shape series by Acorn Books/Heinemann. We reviewed Shapes in Buildings, which was Level E with a Word Count of 137.

Polly of Pieces by Polly recommends this wordless picture book, with animals and shapes: Color Zoo by Lois Ehlert.

Pie in the Sky by Lois Ehlert is a story about a cherry tree and a cherry pie, complete with a cherry pie recipe.

Euclid, a poem by Vachel Lindsay. Text at poemhunter: here, and at end of this post. (probably good for about 1st grade to adult):

For upper elementary, don’t miss this Pi book:
Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi (A Math Adventure)

Making Pi physical:

Games with balls.

Games with hoops and Hula Hoops.

Ring-Around-The-Rosey, “Duck, Duck Goose”, and other circle games.

Circle dances.


Old Euclid drew a circle
On a sand-beach long ago.
He bounded and enclosed it
With angles thus and so.
His set of solemn greybeards
Nodded and argued much
Of arc and circumference,
Diameter and such.
A silent child stood by them
From morning until noon
Because they drew such charming
Round pictures of the moon.

by Vachel Lindsay


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