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Boise math teacher finds creative ways to celebrate 'Pi Day'

Pi Day celebrations begin early at St. Joe’s in Boise.

BOISE, Idaho — It’s March, which means that “Pi Day” is coming up soon. The date on the calendar is 3/14, and the day is sometimes used as a day to celebrate the very important mathematical constant: 3.14… and so-on. 

Julianne Russell’s students at St. Joe’s in Boise know how important Pi is.

"And they think it is my most - 'Mrs. Russell's favorite holiday is Pi Day,' and I will let them keep thinking that!"  Russell says.

This year, March 14th falls on a Saturday, but the Pi Day celebrations begin early at St. Joe’s. There’s Pi all over the classroom, on the walls, in the hallway – even the teacher is donning Pi earrings!

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"In my math class, my class looks like a pretty typical math class. Like what you saw me doing in there. I'm answering questions, they're working on the particular topic of the day. You don't really get many opportunities as a math teacher to say, 'Hey! Let's eat pie and let's do a piece of artwork!'" Mrs. Russell says.

There’s a student-designed “Pi-topia” lining the hallways at St. Joe’s. Each student was given a “piece of Pi” to get creative with.

"This piece of pi, this student was given the first 11 digits of pi, and every one of these buildings, the height corresponds to the digit,” says Mrs. Russell.

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For seven years now, the students at St. Joe’s get excited for the annual Pi Day celebrations.

"It allows me one day,” says Mrs. Russell. “We can do something fun in class, they're excited not to have homework, and they get pie at lunch."

The students draw Pi, they eat pie, they even recite as much of Pi as they can.

Topher Jones, a student at St. Joe’s, enjoys memorization games. He memorizes and verbally recounts hundreds of digits of Pi.

"Last year I did 325 digits and then today I did 222,” says Jones. "It takes me about 2 breaths to get to 100 and I did 222. So, I can do about 50 digits in one breath."

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Jones doesn’t do this just because he likes to memorize numbers. During the Pi Day celebrations, Jones will “compete” with other students to see who has correctly memorized the most digits of Pi.

"The top three winners get to ‘pie’ somebody,” says Jones.

"It's been teachers, we had one year the principal got pie'd,” explains Russell.

Russell’s students think Pie Day celebrations are pretty special, as is their teacher.

"She teaches us why things are the way they are in math, and it really helps us understand it. And I think we're all really grateful for her at this school,” says Jones.

"We do talk in my class about how to be curious about the world, and be curious about relationships, because that can lead to important discoveries. So, what better day than Pi Day to celebrate that curiosity?" Russell says.

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