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Watson College News

WCE Partners with Bradley Creek to Create 'Pi Day of the Century' Event for Students

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The cafeteria at Bradley Creek Elementary School was transformed into a sea of teal on March 6 as fourth grade students wearing identical T-shirts gathered for a celebration of Pi Day 2015. Faculty and students from the Watson College, in partnership with Bradley Creek's principal and teachers, planned the special event.

March 14 is an unofficial holiday that celebrates the mathematical constant pi (symbolized by the Greek letter "π") because the digits of this date correspond with the first three digits of pi (3.14).

Watson College associate professor Tracy Hargrove explained that the date has particular significance in 2015. "The first five digits of pi are 3.1415, which is this year's date including the year," she said. "Since this will not occur again for another century, we thought it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that should not be missed!"

Hargrove and WCE faculty Maggie Guggenheimer worked with fourth grade teacher Jamie Scordino to create a series of math lesson plans to help students learn to use pi to compute the circumference, area and volume of a variety of round objects. Then, they teamed with Watson College associate professor Heidi Higgins and fourth grade teachers Kathy Godbey, Meghan Johnson and Lauren Romano to turn the lesson plans into fun activities for students.

On the day of the event, eight stations featuring Domino's pizza boxes, bubbles, paper plates, construction paper, beads and other craft materials, were set up in the cafeteria and fourth grade classrooms. Twenty-seven students enrolled in Hargrove and Guggenheimer' s EDN 325 classes manned the stations and helped students complete activities that included making jewelry, creating a giant chain with the digits of pi and calculating the circumference of bubbles.

EDN 325 is a required course in geometry, measurement and data for students enrolled in the Elementary Education program at the college.

"In planning the stations, a key criterion was to design activities that every student could do," Guggenheimer said.

Scordino, who coordinated planning efforts at Bradley Creek, said another goal was to show students ways math is applied outside of the classroom.

"Pi Day is a way to celebrate numbers," Scordino said. "These activities help students see there is more to math than math class."

In the week leading up to the event, teachers introduced fractions and decimals, explained how some numbers terminate and others repeat and moved from rectangles to circles as they introduced the concept of pi.

Godbey googled the first 100,000 digits of pi, printed it out and hung it up in the school hallway. The printout totaled 41 pages of digits when taped together.

"Seeing all of the digits really made an impact on students," Godbey said.

The week of the event, teachers introduced a contest to see who can learn the most digits of pi. The goal was to memorize the first 10 digits and by March 6 Scordino said, "Many students can recite over 20 digits and one student is already up to 103!" A winner will be announced at the end of the month.

As activities got underway, the students couldn't wait to get started.

"This is the most excited I have ever seen them," Scordino said. "They think it's the coolest thing that they get T-shirts and all these fun activities. And it's just for the fourth graders, so it's very special."

In celebration of Pi Day, each student was given a T-shirt in UNCW teal with the words, "Pi Day of the Century, 3.14.15, Bradley Creek Elementary and UNCW Watson College of Education." Bradley Creek Principal Lauren Kefalonitis, Watson College Dean Kenneth Teitelbaum and Kappa Delta Pi provided the funds for T-shirts. Kappa Delta Pi advisor Lisa Buchanan said the group was happy to help.

"Kappa Delta Pi is an international honor society in education," Buchanan said. "One of the central principles of KDP is service. Chapter 616 in Watson supports a variety of community service opportunities like Pi Day that involve UNCW students working with children and local schools. We hope that this becomes an annual event!"

It's likely that will happen.

The meticulously planned two-hour math marathon in celebration of Pi Day unfolded without a hitch and WCE faculty and Bradley Creek administrators and teachers are already discussing plans for Pi Day 2016.

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