Tahlequah Daily Press

March 15, 2013

It’s as easy as pi

Students at Briggs School made a paper chain to represent a number that goes on and on and on...

Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Students learn by doing, not by sitting.

Briggs School math teacher Lori Glavin got her students out of the school building Thursday to stretch a colored chain of paper from the school’s parking lot to U.S. Highway 62 to show students a physical representation of a numerical constant.

Thursday was “Pi Day,” or March 14 – the unofficial holiday celebrating the mathematical constant that represents, in a month/day format, the first three digits of pi, or 3.14. The date is also significant because it’s the birthday of a well-known German theoretical physicist named Albert Einstein.

Glavin thought the event would be a great way to teach her students about pi, or the mathematical constant that makes up the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. Pi itself is a letter in the Green alphabet.

“[Pi Day is] celebrated all over the country – all over the world, actually, at universities, colleges and high schools and stuff. It’s just to talk about all things pi,” Glavin said. “It never repeats. It never ends. There’s no pattern yet that has repeated. They’ve calculated it to 10 trillion digits. We only did 4,000 [links in creating a paper chain to represent pi].”

The students used free time to create the paper chain, as well T-shirts that presented images or the symbol of pi.

Other activities with the theme of pi, or things circular in nature, included a hula hoop station; a “what’s your hat size” station that required students to measure their heads to determine hat size; a birth date station where students located their birth dates by highlighting their birthday in the trillion-digits of pi; and a pie station that served up several different types of the sweet confection. Several songs – including Journey’s “Wheel In the Sky,” the Beach Boys’ “I Get Around,” and Disney’s “Circle of Life” from “The Lion King” – were played.

Briggs Principal George Ritzhaupt believes kids learn best through physical activities, and noted learning situations like Glavin’s Pi Day project are aligned with the state’s Common Core Standards.

“What I like about the new objectives to the Common Core is that it’s taking our teachers back to what should be done: hands-on learning with kids. Our math teacher, Mrs. Glavin, does a great job,” he said. “This is just one of the projects she does. The thing about it is it gets them excited about learning, and that’s what we want. Kids learn by doing, not by sitting.”

Though most students may not enjoy math class, fifth-grader Tyler Davis understands his future will be influenced by how well he listens to his teachers.

“Whenever you grow up and have a job, you’re going to need to know math,” he said. “We’re learning about the symbol pi. The paper chain is pi. It represents a number. There were 4,000 digits.”

Sixth-grader Dacee Pritchett said the chain activity was a way to visualize pi as it relates to infinity.

“The chain represents how the number never ends,” she said.