DENAIR Denair middle schoolers celebrated the circle with what could be called pie-eyed exuberance this week. Math assignments measured, memorized and made the most of that rounded number: 3.14, aka pi.
The 14th day of the third month became Pi Day, commemorated in songs, paper chains and decorated T-shirts at the middle school.
"It's something silly and fun, but it brings the attention to math," said Pi Day proponent Inga Bernard. Her seventh-grade math classes on Thursday wrapped metric tape measures around tuna cans, tubs, caps and cartons, dividing circumference by diameter.
Her pre-algebra students worked in chatty teams. All their circular calculations should have had the same answer (pi). "The object is for kids to recognize that, no matter what the circumference or diameter is, the ratio is always pi. I want them to have that 'aha!' moment," Bernard said.
Sixth-grade teacher Linda Richardson, watching the creation of a potentially endless paper chain of pi digits, said her classes also studied pi social studies, tying it into a unit on ancient Greece.
Sixth-graders got to calculate circumference in a calorie-intensive environment, checking the ratios of rounds like pizzas, cookies, candies and sponge cakes.
That last came complete with whipped cream and strawberries a favorite, agreed Shannon Sondeno and Alexandria Wallen as they waited with a handful of paper "5" strips. Other tables waited with zeros through 9s. Isaiah Johnson was at the 3s table.
"Pi's just kind of special," he said, explaining the math concept. "It's what you need to find the circumference of a round."
Johnson and friends were counting down the hours to 2 p.m., when a school assembly would include a singalong of pi songs, a pie in the face for a teacher and the pi memory contest.
Among the top competitors was eighth-grader Abby Helnor, who could name pi to 100 digits past the 3. "I look at it in chunks," she said. Doing plays and liking math also helps, she said before the contest.
Seventh-grader Lily Franco, who qualified as a finalist with 84 digits, said math was her hardest subject, but memorizing numbers came easily. "I pick numbers that mean something to me," she said, then remembers the ones between her favorites.
Neither bested the 125 correct numbers rattled off by a sixth-grader, who then declined the honor of pie-ing science teacher Barry Cole.
Cole faced the whipped creaming because kids filled his classroom jar with the most donations of any teacher. Money raised in all the classes will be split among teachers to buy supplies, he said.
The win-win theme of the day spread to learning math as well, giving kids tangible ways to look at paper problems, said sixth-grade teacher David Rodriguez.
"What they don't realize is that math is everywhere," he said.
"That's what they always say, 'When are we ever going to use this?' " Richardson added with a chuckle.
The day wrapped up with, naturally, pie apple, for everybody.
Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2339, on Twitter, @NanAustin, www.modbee.com/education.