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Tossing Pi Activity

This tossing pi activity generates the digits of pi after collecting data from tossing toothpicks on a sheet of paper. Students will be shocked at the results!

tossing pi activity with container of toothpicks.

Here are the instructions:

Tossing Pi instructions on smartboard.
more instructions for tossing pi on smartboard.

Ideally, this activity, also known as Buffon’s Needles, is used to reach an approximation of pi.  Some of my group’s approximations were much more accurate than others.

Students had to work carefully to construct parallel lines whose distance apart was the exact length of a toothpick.

student using ruler to draw lines the width of a tooth pick apart.

Giving students toothpicks often leads to unintended activities.  One group decided to make pretty designs with their toothpicks.

toothpick design on desk by student.

Another group was highly disappointed when I wouldn’t give them more toothpicks to continue building their toothpick tower.

stacked toothpicks on student desk.

Students laid their papers on the floor and tossed the toothpicks from their desktops.

toothpicks tossed on colored paper.
toothpicks tossed on colored paper.
toothpicks tossed on colored paper.

After tossing all of their toothpicks, they used the given formula to approximate pi.  We didn’t really have much time to get into why exactly this process works.