Friday, March 16, 2007

Round and round

Wednesday was Pi Day, and we didn't notice. It was 3.14, at least according to the US convention for numbering dates. Here in Canada one more commonly sees 14 03 2007, but in any event, we didn't really notice. A day later I was reading Karen's LightingTheFires blog and I realized we'd missed the whole deal. Not that I would have purposely set out to create a celebration out of anything other than a sense of humour. My kids have a tendency to run out of the room when they perceive that I have slipped on my secret "Facilitator of Fun Projects Kids can Learn From" hat, so anything other than circular grilled cheese sandwiches would have fallen pretty flat with them.

But here's the funny thing. Lots of pi and circle things happened without us noticing.

At Science Club, or "NOS [Not Only Science] Club" as it should more properly be termed these days, D. had brought some colour mixing demonstrations and activities. One involved drawing coloured dots on circles of card and then rapidly spinning them to enable the eye to see the 'blended' colour. We used the K'nex solar motor. Given the little bit of spring-like sun we were afforded, it worked quite well. They got lovely blurs of purples and browns rather than the discrete colours they had drawn.

Later, my kids used the same motor, attached blank pieces of circular card and spun them, applying felt markers at high speed and ending up with blurred circular colour effects that they named "Amanra's CD's." They then went on their typical weird story-telling rampage, creating some sort of strange scenario whereby Amanra keeps ruining CD players because she cannot for the life of her figure out what is wrong with the beautiful and inexpensive CD's she is creating.

And then, since they were on a circular artwork kick, it was either spirograph or paint in the salad spinner next. We'd been talking about doing that latter for a while, and it seemed an opportune moment. We cut out yet more circles of cardstock, placed them one at a time in our ratty salad spinner, drizzled on blobs of watery acrylic paint, and cranked away. Clean-up could have been worse. We worked quickly and the paint hadn't really started to dry. A rinse, a quick wash with a cloth and a few scrubs here and there with an old toothbrush and we were good to go for salad again. Acrylic paint is non-toxic, right?

Finally, having finished "King of the Middle March" and "Bridge to Terabithia" as readalouds in the last few days, we needed to pick out a new novel for evening reading aloud. Noah and Sophie are enjoying Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything" so much that I figured we needn't be restricted to children's novels. So on a whim I pulled down Yann Martel's "Life of Pi." Pi's real name is Piscine Molitor Patel, but when he enters secondary school, he changes it to Pi, as in π, as in 3.14159...

And we didn't notice any of this until March 15th.

Incidentally, when Erin was 6 or 7 and had taken an interest in pi, Noah, then 4, asked what we were talking about. I explained that pi was a special number that mathematicians sometimes used that was part way between 3 and 4. Noah instantly invented a number called cabbage that is "part way between 4 and 5." So stayed tuned for Cabbage Day, sometime in April. Goodness knows what weird coincidences that will bring.


  1. acrylic paint is as non toxic as the pigments in it. meaning some is pretty toxic but much of it is very non toxic in the us they now label the bottles i think so they probably do that there to.
    i love pi day my birthday happens to be march 15th so pi day is easy for me to remember and seems kinda extra special because i love numbers and math and it leads to my birthday. i would like to find a way to make it as big a deal for my family as Christmas is for many families but i have yet to come up with ways to celebrate a number that are all that exciting. i could make 3.14 pie's i suppose but still not exciting enough. anyhow pi day is also Einsteins birthday which makes it an even cooler day to celebrate.

  2. ROFL about cabbage day. Can't wait to hear about the (non) celebrations for that one.


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