Don’t dread higher math! Get inspired with these resources that will give you confidence and ideas for middle and high school math in your homeschool.
March 14 is Pi Day—and celebrating this mathematical constant makes a fun family party, any way you slice it.
Get on pi time: Turn your wall clock into a pi clock by translating the hours into radians. (You can use this pi clock by SB Crafts as a model if you want to get fancy with your equations.)
Put your pi skills to the test with Buffon’s Needle, a geometrical probability problem that dates back to 1777. It involves dropping a needle onto a sheet of lined paper and determining the probability of the needle crossing one of the lines on the page—an answer that’s directly related to pi. The Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education (MSTE) division of the College of Education at the University of Illinois has a cool simulation that walks you through the problem.
Take the Pi Day Challenge. Matthew Plummer, a former math teacher at Boston’s Hanover High School, likes celebrating Pi Day so much that he created a delightful series of online pi puzzles—some of which call for mathematical solutions, some for research, and some for critical thinking.
Write a Pilish—a poem based on the successive digits of pi. The number of the letters in each word of your poem should equal the corresponding digit of pi: so, the first word would have three letters, the second one, the third four, and so on.
Bake a Beef Bourguignonne Pot Pie or Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie in a square pan so that you can make jokes about “pi are squared,” or just order a pizza to keep things simple. For dessert, pie is practically mandatory. (We’re having this one.)
In Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi by Cindy Neuschwander, the bold knight’s son Radius must find the cure to the potion that turned his father into a fire-breathing dragon.
Pi may be an irrational number, but it’s definitely an important one — and Johnny Ball's Why Pi traces its significance through history to modern-day technology with plenty of facts and engaging anecdotes. Ball does a great job of making math — and pi — feel like important pieces of human history.
David Blatner’s lighthearted The Joy of Pi is a playful history of pi, full of intriguing anecdotes and mathematical details that never bog down into only-math-nerds-will-get-this territory.
Kids who want to try things for themselves will appreciate the hands-on pi activities in Piece of Pi: Wit-Sharpening, Brain-bruising, Number-Crunching Activities with Pi. Though some parts are a bit classroom-y, you’ll find lots of activity inspiration for middle school and up. (Younger kids with a knack for math would enjoy it, too.)
Brainy and opinionated (you will find out what Beckmann thinks of the Roman Empire — spoiler: he’s not really a fan — in addition to what he’s discovered about the history of pi), Petr Beckmann's A History of Pi isn’t for everyone. But the mathematically minded will appreciate the obsessive, nuanced detailing of this impossible number’s place in history and math.
The historical documents about pi in the fascinating collection Pi: A Source Book — including the 1897 proposed Indiana law to fix the value of pi and Lambert’s 1761 proof for the irrationality of pi — make great primary source reads for pi aficionados.
The Einstein Look-a-Like competition is a beloved part of Princeton University’s annual Pi Day celebration, so join the festivities by getting dressed in your Einstein-ian best.
This post was adapted from a story in the winter 2016 issue of HSL.
We’re taking a break from our weekly pep talks this summer, so for June and July, we’re hooking you up with an over-stuffed monthly pep talk instead. We’ll be back in August with our regular weekly pep talks.
10 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS MONTH
July 4 is Independence Day, sure, but it’s also Sidewalk Egg Frying Day.
Celebrate Yellow Pig Day on July 17. I don’t totally understand this mathematician’s holiday (devised by two students studying the number 17), but any day that celebrates math, has its own songbook of Yellow Pig carols, and ends with a Yellow Pig cake is okay in my book.
What better way to celebrate Ice Cream Month than by making your own ice cream? Bonus: It’s a legitimate science experiment.
Video Games Day is July 8, and Suzanne’s got us all excited about checking out the Uncharted series, starring rakish adventurer Nathan Drake. (Add him to the list of people Nathan Fillion should be playing in a film adaptation.)
The easiest summer art project: Make sun prints.
Make a set of rock dominoes to play all summer. (River rocks are ideal for this, so collecting them is a great excuse to take a little river field trip.)
July is Picnic Month! I love the idea of painting a chess/checkers board on your picnic blanket for picnic gaming.
Make your own wooden stilts to get into the spirit of Walk on Stilts Day (July 27).
Celebrate Uncommon Instrument Awareness Day by making your own vuvuzela (a South African horn) out of recycled materials.
Get crafty on Thread the Needle Day (July 25) by making some easy-to-sew and completely adorable bean bags.
10 IDEAS FOR THIS MONTH’S DINNERS
I love how versatile these (gluten-free!) farinata are. Think of them as chickpea pancakes, and top them generously with whatever looks good at the farmers market.
You don’t really need a recipe to make a rainbow cauliflower rice bowl, so experiment with whatever veg you have on hand.
Put a summertime twist on Taco Tuesday with chipotle quinoa sweet potato tacos.
Make a batch of freezer-ready mini pizzas on a quiet day, and you’ll have an emergency dinner/lunch/snack whenever you need it.
I want to make a batch of this pickle-brined fried chicken for our next family picnic.
Break out of your grilling rut with grilled sweet potatoes.
This Big Green Cobbler with leeks, gruyere, and split peas is like a vegetarian take on the best chicken pot pie you ever had.
Summer is all about salad for dinner—and this Thai grilled corn and peach quinoa salad looks like a great addition to your summer salad lineup.
Another dose of inspiration for your grilling menu: Soy-based chicken kebabs with sesame-citrus sprinkle.
Summer squash pizza with goat cheese and walnuts puts a seasonal spin on pizza night.
FOUR GREAT READALOUDS
Seven Daughters and Seven Sons is a retelling of an Iranian folk tale, in which the fourth of seven daughters sets off to make her family’s fortune, disguised as a boy. I’m a sucker for a girl-powered fairy tale, so it’s no surprise I love this one.
Speaking of spunky girls, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is as fun to read aloud as the Lemony Snicket books: plenty of nefarious villains, dramatic plot twists, and, yes, two plucky heroines who must save themselves from an evil governess’s plot.
If you’re looking for laughs, get yourself a copy of Daniel Pinkwater’s Yobgorgle, Mystery Monster of Lake Ontario. I like to think of Pinkwater as the elementary school set’s Douglas Adams, and this zany tale of a boy who takes up monster hunting is a delightful example of why.
New York City’s pushcarts declare war on the trucks in The Pushcart War, creating hilarious city-wide chaos.
ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER