Pi Day 2016 – Planet Pi (JPL/NASA)

This year I celebrated Pi Day 2 days late on March 16 due to attending PD on March 14. I found a great lesson idea on the JPL/NASA website called Planet Pi, see link below:


This is an awesome lesson that teaches students about Pi, why it is important, how NASA scientists and engineers use Pi in their STEM jobs and then a fun challenge where students have to use Pi to work out certain properties of Planet Pi.

I adapted the JPL lesson for my year 5 class, including changing the circumference of Planet Pi to 314 miles. I provided all of the formulae to the class to work out the following:

  • Diameter
  • Radius
  • Area
  • Surface area
  • Volume

Myself and the class teacher guided students through the activity as they were not familiar with Pi, squaring and cubing numbers, surface area and volume. So this was quite a challenging lesson for most of the girls in the class.

I started by setting the scene, what Pi was, the history of Pi and its place in pop culture today. This included a YouTube clip to help the girls understand Pi:

A great clip with some cute kids talking about pie and Pi!

After discussing how JPL/NASA scientists use Pi we started the challenge. Some girls struggled to start with, especially in learning some of the formulae and how we applied them. I and the class teacher explained the concepts clearly using some models of planets in the classroom, which seemed to help. One girl picked it up immediately and actually solved all the equations with about 5 minutes, an absolute maths superstar!

We worked through equations together but the girls did all of the work and eventually we finished with a set of correct answers. We briefly moved onto the extension activity but did not have time to finish.

NASA have a bunch more Pi Day challenges but these look too hard for junior school girls. They can be found in the links below:




Posters can be downloaded on this link:


I loved this lesson and would definitely do it again. Can’t wait for Pi Day 2017!


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