It’s safe to say we have some pretty odd holidays that we celebrate. Take Groundhog’s Day, for instance. A day to dress up in long-tail coats and tophats to see if a rodent with a funny name will see its shadow and predict the arrival of Spring. However odd, it’s still fun to celebrate!
Continuing the tradition of odd holidays, In March, (on March 14th to be exact) we have Pi day! It’s not a day to celebrate actual pie, but a day to celebrate the number 3.14159265358979323846… The number Pi is referred to as an irrational number and unable to be expressed in a common fraction. And it never ends. It keeps going and going, and what’s more interesting is that Pi does not have a repeating pattern. Holidays are fun, especially the weird ones, but I also like to celebrate the people behind the holidays. So, for Pi day, I like to celebrate those mathematicians that made inspiring discoveries related to math.
H2 Did You Know?
Sure you’ve heard of Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton, both famous mathematical geniuses, but what about other famous mathematicians such as Alan Turning or Sophie Germain?
H3 Alan Turing
Alan Turing was an English mathematician born in June 1912 and died in June 1954. He was considered the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence and is known for his many achievements and contributions. One of them being the Turing machine, which is an early form of a computer. Turing also used his knowledge and expertise in cryptography to support the war effort in WWII. He helped create devices that made decoding encrypted messages easier for the Allies. This was instrumental in defeating the Nazis.
H3 Sophie Germain- female
Marie- Sophie Germain was a French mathematician, physicist, and philosopher who was born in 1776 and died in 1831. Her parents and society as a whole didn’t recognize her abilities as a mathematician because they did not fit the typical female role. She educated herself from her father’s books and used a male pseudonym (Monsieur LeBlanc) to correspond with and learn from other mathematicians. Society expectations created obstacles to overcome and be recognized as an equal next to the men in her field, but despite this, she still made significant contributions to the field including her pioneering of the elastic theory.
H2 Product Pairing
Rather than just try to memorize Pi, or eat pie (which is ALWAYS fun on any day), why not go into more depth and have students look into mathematicians and learn about their accomplishments and contributions to the field of mathematics? In Mathematician Biographies- Pi Day Activity, students do just that.
In this resource, students have the opportunity to research famous mathematicians and learn about them. My students have a lot of fun diving into these people’s lives and recognizing their accomplishments. They may not always understand the algorithms, theories, and formulas these number geniuses helped create and solve, but they do leave class knowing the names and history of some pretty amazing, albeit mostly forgotten, people.
Whether you’ve got a break between units, or need something to round out the term, Pi will be a favorite holiday to learn about and celebrate in your classroom. You’ll definitely be celebrating Pi every year! To extend student’s learning and engagement, consider using this comprehensive timeline of mathematical discoveries! If you decide to purchase this resource, be sure to let me know how you used it in your classroom and how your students enjoyed it!
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