The "Pi in the Sky" math challenge gives students a chance to take part in recent discoveries and upcoming celestial events, all while using math and pi just like NASA scientists and engineers. In this problem from the 10th set, students use pi to determine the volume of a rock core collected by the Perseverance Mars rover.
NASA’s Mars rover, Perseverance, was designed to collect rock samples that will eventually be brought to Earth by a future mission. Sending objects from Mars to Earth is very difficult and something we've never done before. To keep the rock cores pristine on the journey to Earth, the rover hermetically seals them inside a specially designed sample tube. Once the samples are brought to Earth, scientists will be able to study them more closely with equipment that is too large to make the trip to Mars. In Tubular Tally, students use pi to determine the volume of a rock sample collected in a single tube.
The Perseverance Mars rover is designed to collect rock samples that will eventually be brought to Earth for further study. This would be the first time we've ever brought back samples from Mars! After scientists identify an interesting rock they would like the rover to collect, Perseverance uses a special coring bit to drill out a rock cylinder 13 mm in diameter. As the rover drills, the rock core moves into one of 38 available tubes that will store the rock sample – sealed until it is opened one day in a lab on Earth.
If the coring bit collects a rock cylinder 60 mm in length, what is the volume of the rock in the sample tube?
Pi Day Challenge Lessons
Here's everything you need to bring the NASA Pi Day Challenge into the classroom.
NASA Pi Day Challenge
In this challenge, students can use pi to solve some of the same problems faced by NASA scientists and engineers
Pi Day: What's Going 'Round
Tell us what you're up to this Pi Day and share your stories and photos with NASA.
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics: Notice and Wonder
Creative brainstorming through noticing and wondering encourages student participation, engagement, and students' understanding of the NASA Pi Day Challenge.
Blogs and Features
How Many Decimals of Pi Do We Really Need?
While you may have memorized more than 70,000 digits of pi, world record holders, a JPL engineer explains why you really only need a tiny fraction of that for most calculations.
Slideshow: 18 Ways NASA Uses Pi
Whether it's sending spacecraft to other planets, driving rovers on Mars, finding out what planets are made of or how deep alien oceans are, pi takes us far at NASA. Find out how pi helps us explore space.
Related Lessons for Educators
Robotic Arm Challenge
In this challenge, students will create a model robotic arm to move items from one location to another. They will engage in the engineering design process to design, build and operate the arm.
Time 30 min to 1 hour
NASA's Mission to Mars Student Challenge
Take part in the exploration of Mars and bring students along for the ride with NASA's Perseverance rover.
Related Activities for Students
Collection: Exploring Mars
Make a cardboard rover, design a Mars exploration video game and explore more STEM projects, slideshows and videos for students.
Infographic: Planet Pi
This poster shows some of the ways NASA scientists and engineers use the mathematical constant pi (3.14) and includes common pi formulas.
Recursos en español
18 Maneras en Que la NASA Usa Pi
Pi nos lleva lejos en la NASA. Estas son solo algunas de las formas en que pi nos ayuda a explorar el espacio.