Celebrate Pi Day With Math (Not Pie)

(Okay, maybe a little pie.)

March 14, 2019
By Samantha Elander and Matthew Schoch
While we love the spirit around turning Pi Day into a celebration of pie (and we definitely love pies), there is still reason to celebrate the other kind of Pi! If you aren't aware of this Internet-fueled holiday, March 14th references the ratio between a circle’s circumference and its diameter, an irrational number that can be rounded out to about 3.14. (Get it?)

No matter how large or small a circle is, the ratio of these two measurements never changes. For this special day, enjoy Pi to your brain's (or tummy’s) desire.

Calculating Pi with Darts

Did you know Pi can be calculated by playing darts? Physics Girl shows us how a random sample of darts can be thrown at a square and circle target. In theory, this experiment would prove to give a ratio leading to 3.14 but, as in most science experiments, there is room for error. See how she tries to overcome these errors in this fun video.

Teach Your Kids About Pi

In this lesson from PBS Parents, kids are instructed to use string and an orange to better understand circumference and Pi. After the experiment, you’ll be surprised that the string doesn’t quite touch around the outer edge of the orange. Why?
Get the activity.

Dive Deep into Math's Impact on Humanity

The true math lovers will love this film from NOVA, which explores math's incredible impact and power through centuries. It explores the essential role math has played in everything from the world's first wireless radio transmission to the swirl of a nautilus shell to landing a rover on Mars.

Wait, Though, Does Math Even Exist?

For a much more existentialist examination of math, we turn to Idea Channel from PBS Digital Studios, which explores the idea of whether math is a human creation or not. (We vote no.) Keeping in the spirit of the show, this episode raises a lot of good points on both sides, while keeping the wit and tone you'd expect.

21 Pi Day Resources from PBS Education

If you’re looking for more exercises that explore Pi, this PBS Education roundup has all of the problems you could possibly want. Some activities relate to musical notes while others are more formal math problems.
Get the activities.

Yes, We Have Pies Too

And finally, if you’d like to drop this math portion of Pi Day and get on with the eating of pie, here are a handful of recipes that will be sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Now that you’ve done extensive reading and eating of Pi, how many digits of this irrational number can you list?

Support your local PBS station

Recent Articles


The Victoria Collection