Math Mondays: March was made for Math

This week is going to be a great week for math.  Not only did the March Madness tournament bracket just come out (ready for a little probability) but also it's just 2 days until Pi Day.  Before I share more about what's going on for these special events, below is a list of some fun facts about Pi that you can share with your students that I found here.

Did you know...

  • The symbol for pi has only been used in its mathematical sense for the past 250 years.  The symbol was introduced in 1706 by William Jones and popularized by Euler.
  • The vertical height of the Great Pyramid Giza has the same relationship to its base as the radius of a circle does to its base. (this is a good one for students to draw out to visualize the relationships).
  • The first 144 digits of pi add up to 666.
  • The Ludophine number is the first 36 digits of pi.  Ludoph van Cuellen spent most of his life calculating this number.
  • Both the Ancient Egyptians and the Ancient Babylonians established the constant ratio of a circle as what we now call pi.  Their estimations were very close to pi.
  • Leonard Da Vinci briefly worked on approximating pi.
  • Isaac Newton, the father of Calculus, calculate pi to at least 16 places.
  • "Pi Day" is 3.14 and is officially celebrated 1:59 so that when combined with the day it makes 3.14159, the first 6 digits of Pi.
  • Albert Einstein was fittingly born on Pi Day (3.14.1879)
If you want to go beyond the fun facts, here's an idea of what we are doing for Pi Day (and March Madness, too).
  • Algebra 2/Pre-Calculus: Pi Day will kick off our unit circle project (Read about what we do).  We will start to look at how pi is an integral part of the unit circle.  Of course, there will also be many types of pie to sample.   If you have upper elementary students or lower middle school students, you can try this finding pi inquiry activity OR middle schoolers can jump into pi through a comparison of irrational and rational numbers.  Read the how to here.
  • Probability: In the past, I have incorporated the March Madness tournament into our probability unit.  Unfortunately, this year we will not have time to do much besides complete our brackets and do some quick probability calculations for bell-ringers.  The one challenge exercise we will do on the first day is weighting the probability for teams when we start the tournament.  Sometimes we do probability calculations in a bubble.  The likelihood of a team winning a tournament with 64 teams can be easily calculated, but we know that the number 1 seeds are more likely to win than the team ranked 16.    Hence, bringing in weighting.  
  • The idea behind a weighted system is that all teams do not have an equal
    chance of winning the tournament.  First, students look at the probability of an individual team going all the way to winning the tournament i.e. winning game 1 then winning game 2 then winning game 3 and so on.  Students work in groups to create their own weighting system.  They can approach it any way they want, but I find that most students start with the lowest ranked team having a 1x factor and then they scale up.  For example, the team ranked 1 might have 8x the likelihood of winning as the number 16 team.  The number 10 team might have a 2.5x likelihood of winning as the number 16 team.  There is lots of data from past tournaments that they can examine to create the weighting system OR they can use team records OR other information.  They just need to be able to explain how they developed the system and be able to identify the probability of any given team winning based on the system.  The best part of the activity is that they can see how well their system works and can reflect on what they could change to improve their system.  This is probability in real-world action!  
I am bummed we won't have more time to spend on March Madness this year, but time is always the limitation, isn't it?  Still the unit circle will be great fun, and I am looking forward to my piece of Pi!

Math Mondays is a bi-weekly blog post (2nd and 4th Monday of each month) sharing tips, ideas, resources, and products for teaching math.  If you have questions or think there is something I should include, you can leave me a message in the comments section below or at the store in the question and answer section.