Q&A #6013

How Pi fits into the K-12 curriculum

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From: Marielouise (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: Mar 25, 2001 at 17:45:24
Subject: Re: How Pi fits into the K-12 curriculum

Hi, Julie,

Suzanne gave you many places to get answers telling where pi should be
introduced and developed into the K-12 curriculum.  Gail told you how she
was developing the idea in her fifth grade class.   I am going to relate to 
you something that happened ten years ago.

I was working with about a dozen elementary school teachers determining
activities and concepts that we would introduce in a Family Math program.
I asked about pi.   Almost all of the teachers thought that it was a tough
concept to get across. I insisted that we give it a try.  We then worked on
an activity for parents and students to work on together. The Family Math
program was directed to parents with children in grades 2-6.   Our activity 
was to go home and find round baking pans, round pots, round trash cans, 
round cans, etc.   We asked that the students take a piece of string and 
measure across the circular opening.  Then take a piece of string and measure 
around the circular opening.   The lengths of these two pieces were to be 
measured with a yardstick or tapemeasure and the data recorded.   We also 
asked them to tape together the two pieces of string and bring it to the next 
session. At the next session we posted all of the string pairs and asked what 
did people think. The parents thought that the relation was 3 to 1. This was
good. We then had the children take their own measurements and divide the big 
by the small. We found in most cases that the numbers showed three and little 
bit more to one.   We talked about this number and said that it had a name in
mathematics :  pi.   The parents said that they could continue to help the
students see that the distance around was three times and little bit more
than the distance across.

The teachers felt good about this.   The next week we brought in several see
through tennis ball containers with three tennis balls in them.  We let the
parents see that the balls did not move when we turned them upside down.
The cover was touching the top ball.  We asked the families to guess:   was 
the height of the container with the three balls larger, equal or smaller to 
the distance around the container.   Most of the families voted for height as
larger.  We then passed around the container with a piece of string cut to
the height of the container.   We realized that the idea might have been
understood in two space but that we had a really huge job to have parents
understant that the distance around was three and a little bit more than the
distance across a ball!

Pi has to be introduced early in the curriculum...4th or 5th grade   and
revisited regularly.

  -Marielouise, for the T2T service

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