Happy ∏ Day. March 14th. 3.14. That is ‘p-i,’ not ‘p-I-e’. Pi is an irrational number; it is a non-repeating, non terminating decimal that is used when solving geometry problems dealing with circles. It is pattern-less. Pi is the ratio of the diameter of a circle to the circumference of the same circle.
This is not my normal blog. I usually write about my kids, life in general and various other topics. Today, my inner nerd comes out. I am a middle school math teacher and everyone knows that in some form or fashion, almost all teachers are nerds of some sort. Math nerds are a special group, misunderstood by most of mankind.
PI. Even though pie is how we mathematicians normally celebrate our special day, we allow others to indulge along with us. Normally, it is with chocolate pies, but any type of pie will do. Pizza pies will work, but only if they are round (not square) and the slices are cut through the center-point going the entire diameter of the pie. Each slice should have edges that are the length of the radius.
In ancient days, a few years before I was born, it was believed that the circumference of a circle was about three times of the diameter, or a 3:1 ratio. In the Bible, pi is referenced in 1 Kings, “And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did encompass it about.”
Other cultures have used different values to represent pi. Archimedes of Syracuse, one of the most brilliant mathematicians of the ancient world discovered that pi was approximated by using a 96- sided hexagon. Many formulas have been used to represent pi, but it wasn’t until the 1700’s that a British mathematician named William Jones defined pi as
Π = 3.14159.
This was adopted by Euler and became the standard. Recently, pi was calculated to over one trillion digits.
Enough of that. I may be a math nerd, but it usually doesn’t last very long. Normally, we celebrate each year by having the students compete by reciting the most decimal places for pi. I believe that in the past nineteen years most students were able to memorize twenty to thirty digits. Only a few have exceeded 100 digits. I have had only one to go way beyond that – 240 digits. After that, no one wanted to compete. In order to compete students had to memorize at least 10 digits. If no one in the class could recite 10 digits, I got to eat pie. I only got to eat chocolate pie once in nineteen years. Tasted pretty good and of course it was homemade. This year there will be no competition in my classes. Currently, I teach sixth grade. We don’t hit circles until next year.
So, in the grand scheme of things, what does this all mean? You can use any reason to eat pie, even math.
***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.