Bubble math: a practical Pi Day lesson for Bethel Park students
Next time you bathe with Mr. Bubble, consider the mathematics.
Bethel Park High School students in Christine Robb’s geometry class did so – in the school library, not the tub – during a Pi Day lesson.
While some folks with superhuman memory can recite the value of pi, which represents the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, to thousands of digits, the key three are 3.14. On the calendar, that translates to March 14, a holiday for mathematicians throughout the world.
And each March 14, Pi Woman, complete with a cape and sunglasses covered with π’s, visits Bethel Park with a Pi Day-appropriate educational opportunity.
“We’re going to give you bubbles. Now, Ms. Robb told me she likes to throw things,” Ms. Pi Woman, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the teacher, said as she prepared to toss small plastic containers in the general directions of the students. “So you’re going to have to pay attention.”
Once the students took possession of the vials, by catching them or picking them up off the floor, they dutifully used the soapy solution inside to revisit their younger years and blow bubbles.
In previous years, Robb – er, Pi Woman – used such relatable items as cookie and pie with an “e” to teach about the universal equation for calculating a circumference.
“This year, I had an interesting idea about bubbles,” she said. “They continue to make a sphere until they run into an obstacle. And a sphere is just countless circles in all different planar directions that our minds can’t even fathom, but yet the world does.”
That certainly includes the world of technology.
“If these kids are getting into robotics and computer vision, they have to be able to think outside the box with multiplanar things, well past four and five dimensions,” Pi Woman explained.
For the Pi Day exercise, she instructed students to blow bubbles on the tops of tables, and then when they burst, to use rules and pieces of string for diameter and circumference measurements. Each team of two, three or four students recorded the data on “bubble metrology” charts to determine if the dimensions, with proper mathematics applied, lined up with the value of pi.
“This was kind of a test run,” Pi woman said as the class period neared its end and the students cleaned the library tables. “So next year, I’ll see if I can bring more pi activities that are different.”
Mark your calendars for March 14.