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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