Yay For Pi Day: A New Reason To Enjoy Math
Pi Day Originally Confused Me
I'm an English and French teacher; actually, I've taught far more than that, but outside of the sciences, I've pretty much taught most subjects in school. I've even once dabbled in a workplace math course, but before I taught in Saskatchewan, I had no clue what Pi Day even was.
Class had just finished, and I remember a bunch of my students were extremely excited to head off to their math class, which I found odd. Certainly, it wasn't because of the teacher; the math teacher was fun, had a great sense of humor and was even cute, according to some of the kids in his class, so what wasn't there to be excited about when you were 13 or 14 years old?
That's where a good teacher can make the difference, though; if you know how to make the subject fun, it becomes more appealing to your students, and in becoming more appealing, they will get something out of it. It may not always be what you want them to take out of it, but there will be something they will actively enjoy and remember.
Pi Day was it in this case.
I remember I also thought it a bit odd that the kids were bringing baked goods to the class. As I sat there, wondering what pies and math could possibly have in common with one another, I finally shook myself enough out of my dreamlike state and asked one of the kids exactly why they were bringing baked goods to their teacher.
"It's Pi Day," one explained, grinning.
I paused, looking for the significance. "Okay...." I waited for additional information.
None was forthcoming, mostly because the kid had to get going to class, evidently to eat pie.
No one said I had a particularly fast wit at the time, because I spent most of the next class with questions rolling around in my head about why Pie Day would be so significant to a math class.
During lunch, I wandered over to the math class, where my colleague was tidying up his desk in between bites of lunch. "Pie Day?"
He had to have heard the question in my voice because I am sure I looked as confused as I thought I sounded. He smiled. "It's the 14th of March."
I let this information digest. "Uh huh..."
I still wasn't getting it. "3.14," my colleague gently prodded me.
I stared at him for a long time, and then it was like an explosion went off in my head. "Oh!"
Now, I got it. How could I have missed it previously?
In looking at the smiles of the students as they'd left the classroom, it was pretty clear that they had a renewed excitement about math. This was a day they had been excited about for at least a month or two, and that was not something you saw a whole lot of when it came to kids and math class.
I was impressed.
I Like Lemon Meringue, Please
What Is Pi, Anyways?
Pi is an irrational number that was initially devised by Archimedes, and is a constant that represents the ratio of a circumference of a circle to its diameter. Now, an extra 9 trillion digits have been discovered, thanks to R&D scientist Peter Trueb, who used a computer to calculate Pi to 22,459,157,718,361 digits.
However, Pi Day and Pi Approximation Day are two different celebrations. Where Pi Day falls on March 14, Pi Approximation Day actually falls on July 22, as 22/7 is the common approximation for Pi.
Pi continues to fascinate largely because it is such an infinite figure, and many think that it could not possibly have no endpoint in its calculation. However, mathematician "The digits of pi never end and never show a pattern. They go on forever, seemingly at random - except that they can't possibly be random, because they embody the order inherent in a perfect circle.
As for some fun facts about Pi Day, probably one of the most entertaining is that Congress actually recognizes Pi Day as a holiday. Also, Star Trek fans might find it interesting that, in the episode "Wolf In The Fold," Spock destroys a computer taken over by the spirit of Jack the Ripper by having it calculate Pi to the last digit. That thereby allows the Enterprise crew access to their computers once again.
As it turns out, March 14 also happens to be the birthday of Albert Einstein, thereby giving mathematicians everywhere cause to celebrate.
Regardless of how you might feel about math, there is no denying the universal appeal of Pi Day. What sort of pie will you be enjoying today? The possibilities, like the constant itself, are endless!