Hello <<First Name>>,

Teachers and other math nerds are preparing to celebrate an epic Pi Day on 3/14/15. Personally, I think next year's date is even cooler, since rounding to 3.1416 is more accurate than truncating after the 5. But if you time your party carefully, your family could dine on round snacks at exactly 3/14/15 9:26:53...

Unfortunately, the activities I see on teacher blogs and Pinterest don't include much actual math. They stress the pi/pie wordplay or memorizing the digits. With a bit of digging, however, I found a couple of projects that let you sink your metaphorical teeth into real mathematical meat. I hope you and your children enjoy them.

Best wishes!

Math Snack: Why Pi?

Playful, no-preparation math activities for all ages

In math, symmetry is beautiful, and the most completely symmetric object in the (Euclidean) mathematical plane is the circle. No matter how you turn it, expand it, or shrink it, the circle remains essentially the same. Every circle you can imagine is the exact image of every other circle there is.

This is not true of other shapes. A rectangle may be short or tall. An ellipse may be fat or slim. A triangle may be squat, or stand up right, or lean off at a drunken angle. But circles are all the same, except for magnification. A circle three inches across is a perfect, point-for-point copy of a circle three miles across, or three millimeters.

What makes a circle so special and beautiful? Don't bother with a definition like "the locus of points a given distance from..." Blah! Any child will tell you, what makes a circle is the roundness of it. Perfectly smooth and plump, but not too fat. One way to express that roundness in numbers is to compare it to the distance across—How many times would you have to walk back and forth across the middle of the circle to make the same distance as one trip around? That's pi!

Alexander Bogomolny offers a great lesson on measuring pi that also helps students understand the problems of measurement in general: Determination of π, Measurements in Context. Lucinda Leo shares what happened when her family tried a similar project: Discovering Pi – the living maths of circles.

What better way could there be to celebrate Pi Day than by creating mathematical art that highlights roundness and symmetry? Take a look at what the Highhill Homeschool family has been working on: a whole series of posts on Mandala Math Art.

Pi animation by John Reid (Edited version of Image:Pi-unrolled.gif.) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

More Tasty Tidbits

A few of my favorite playful posts about pi

The Exploratorium offers A Brief History of π, and Live Science tries to explain What Makes Pi So Special? 

The ancient Egyptians probably didn't know about pi, but they still had a pretty accurate way to calculate the area of a circle: On the Ancient Egyptian Value for Pi. The Greeks expected pi to be a nice fraction. After all, that's what you get when you compare two distances—a ratio, which is a fraction. But no matter how much they tried (and Archimedes tried really hard), they couldn't find the exact value.

Maths Is Fun shows another way you can Find an Approximate Value For Pi. And while you're on the website, check out their introduction to Radians.

Is your birthday somewhere in the digits of pi? Take a look at the Pi-Search Page and find out. This year's Pi Day, 3/14/15 shows up 2,035 times in the first 200 million digits of pi.

While we're talking about digits, I think the Pi Skyline math art project is really cool. Or check out this amazing Spirograph style design that creates the illusion of structure in the midst of randomness.

If you enjoy logic puzzles, try your hand at the Pi Day Sudoku from Brainfreeze. Or see if you can spot the logical fallacy in the U.S. Department of Education's Five Great Ways to Celebrate Pi Day on 3/14. (Or try your hand at poetry. I'm sure you can write a better pi-ku than their pitiful example.)

Book Updates

A quick peek at what I'm working on

While the copy editor is cleaning up the text of my first two Math You Can Play books, I've been creating the graphics and game boards. This week I started to lay out a first draft of the interior page design. And that can only mean one thing—new samples! Here's a taste of the latest versions:

Definitely not finished, but it's fun to see things coming together. Each of the preview files includes four games you can try with your kids. The final books will have 21 games each, plus a gaggle of extensions and variations.

To make these books, I've had to learn how to use InDesign, Photoshop, and Adobe Illustrator, and YouTube has been my go-to source of instruction. Along the way, I had fun learning how to draw the Impossible Penrose Triangle, which I'm using as a design on the back of my playing cards.

I'm still expecting the books to be ready by mid- to late-spring. Stay tuned—I'll offer them to newsletter subscribers first, for a special discounted price...

And that's all I have for now. I hope you found something interesting or useful. See you next month!
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