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Pi Discoveries with Grade 4

Heather Melville ~Grade 4 Math/Science

What is Pi? Why are we celebrating Pi Day? Didn’t you spell Pi wrong Mrs. Melville?

March 14th turned into deep mathematical discussions for the 4.3 and 4.4 students. Rather than thinking the concept of Pi was too difficult for the students to comprehend, we explored what knowledge we already had and applied it to a new idea. Our math class began with a read aloud book titled; “Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi” by Cindy Neuschwander. We discussed the character names and what they were mathematically (radius, diameter, circumference, geometry and symmetry). The students loved to interact providing the sound effects for the story. 

In the book, there is a poem, which tells the character Radius how to calculate Pi. The poem was written on the board for the students. They all were then placed into table groups and given the following materials; a ruler, string, paper, pencil and a round object. We wanted to discover who could find Pi (or at least come close to 3.14159). The students deciphered the poem to figure out the problem. Using the materials they were able to measure the round object with the string and then measure the string to get their calculations. 

I visited each table group to discuss division and demonstrated how their measurements for diameter and circumference would make Pi. From both classes only one group had the outcome of 3.14. The discussions that came from this were thoughtful and reflected what they knew with multiplication and where they were headed mathematically. No one was questioning Pi anymore. The questions were about decimals and fractions, precise measurement, the relationship between multiplication and division, geometry and symmetry. The students were excited about what lies ahead in their learning. It was a very fun class with every student engaged in their learning. As a teacher I’ve learned that I need to embrace those opportunities as I did on Thursday and rejoice in the excitement of the students. We all embraced the challenge of Pi and began a new passion for mathematics. 

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