Easy As ‘Pi’

FALCONER – For the second consecutive year, a single mathematical symbol has made waves at Falconer Central School.

On Thursday, middle school students celebrated “Pi Day” by participating in a series of activities centered around the symbol’s decimal form of 3.14. The district held its own observance in the middle/high school media center, where 10 individual pi-based activities were on display.

More than 300 middle school students took part in the activities, including: “pi-ano hero,” in which students played a keyboard melody based on the digits of pi; “pi-ku,” a poem-writing activity in which the number of syllables in each line match pi’s digit numbers; “bowling for pi,” where teams of students attempted to bowl pi’s digits; “walk the pi-ne,” in which students used personal objects, such as clothing items, to calculate pi by measuring a large circle; “pi-chain,” in which students created a chain of color-coded construction paper links to represent pi’s infinite decimal sequence; and “Towers of pi-ville,” in which students built towers with a height-to-base ratio as close to the value of pi as possible.

The event was coordinated by April Binkley, library media specialist, and Jon Anderson, math club adviser and teacher.

“We don’t really have a lot of opportunities to do stuff with the math classes here (in the library), so we wanted to find something that would promote math,” said Binkley.

According to Anderson, the idea of incorporating “Pi Day” into the Falconer district came from his time as a SUNY Fredonia student.

“When I was in college, (Fredonia) had a ‘Pi Day’ celebration where they had competitions, trophies and T-shirts – it was a really big deal,” said Anderson. “In the past, (Falconer math club) had put on a ‘middle school math night.’ We had a really low turnout for the nighttime version, so I said, ‘Why don’t we try to get (the students) involved during the day?’ So April and I put our heads together and decided we could take up the media center, and do all of the games that we would do during the nighttime version of the event.”

He added: “And (the students) have a good time, they just don’t know they’re going to have a good time. We try to have games that are engaging to them, are meaningful and using math in a way that they don’t normally get to use it. Hopefully, (it will) turn them on to math.”

The event was coordinated with both the middle and high school math departments. During their regularly scheduled math classes, the middle schoolers came to participate in the activities, which were overseen by a combination of high school math club members and Anderson’s students.

According to Anderson, the activities chosen for the event were a combination of Fredonia’s “Pi Day” activities and some that were invented.

“A lot of the games do come from Fredonia, so they’re modified versions of those,” he said. “One of my former students created the ‘pi-ano’ game. April found the ‘pi-chain,’ and I came up with the (‘Towers of Pi-ville’). Each year, we try to keep games that the students really like while incorporating new ones. Sometimes students get so turned off by math, and I think it’s really important for students to have a little fun with it.”

A worldwide observance, “Pi Day” is held annually on March 14 because of the date’s corresponding numbers with those of the mathematical constant.