Q&A #6013

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: How Pi fits into the K-12 curriculum

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From: Joyce Jenkins

To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2002063016:39:38
Subject: Helping students understand the need to use pi / why it works

I am a Graduate student with a child entering 6th grade in TX. He was
not introduced to pi in 5th grade, but I know that it will be covered
in 6th grade. I am writing a unit on 6th grade geometry and would like
to add one of the activities I'm using for my lesson on pi.

We will measure small round objects (jar lids, etc.), as noted in the
previous messages on T2T, but we will measure with strips of graph
paper. Easy enough - just bend them around the circular object, and
slide them across the "biggest" part of the circle, which is the
diameter, of course. We record our measurement in "boxes" - counting
how many little "boxes" it took to measure as out standard unit for
this activity. We'll do the division and average all the answers
together to get, hopefully, close to the target 3.14. 

But I want the students not only to understand the calculation, but
why we have to use it. I will have the students pick one of the items
they measured with their graph paper, place that item on a blank sheet
of graph paper, and trace around it. They will then try to count how
many square "boxes" are within the circle. Hard to do, but estimation
is the objective. Then, since we measured in "boxes" and transferred
the image to the same size "boxes" on the graph paper, the students
will use their previously recorded measurement for the object and
calculate the formula for area. They will then compare their physical
count to the formula results, showing that pi gives a better & easier
measurement than trying to count square "boxes."

I am trying to provide as much hands-on activity in math as I can.
Probably because we did not use any when I was in school (back in the
dark ages). Our math classes were as interesting as licking sandpaper.
Hope I've helped.

Joyce Jenkins

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