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Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Pi Day


March 14 (3.14) is National Pi Day in the U.S. 

Most of us, even the least mathematically inclined, are familiar with the concept of pi but, just as a refresher, here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

“π (sometimes written pi) is a mathematical constant that is the ratio of any Euclidean[1] circle's circumference to its diameter. π is approximately equal to 3.14. Many formulae in mathematics, science, and engineering involve π, which makes it one of the most important mathematical constants.[2] For instance, the area of a circle is equal to π times the square of the radius of the circle.
π is an irrational number, which means that its value cannot be expressed exactly as a fraction having integers in both the numerator and denominator (unlike 22/7). Consequently, its decimal representation never ends and never repeats. π is also a transcendental number, which implies, among other things, that no finite sequence of algebraic operations on integers (powers, roots, sums, etc.) can render its value; proving this fact was a significant mathematical achievement of the 19th century.
Throughout the history of mathematics, there has been much effort to determine π more accurately and to understand its nature; fascination with the number has even carried over into non-mathematical culture. Perhaps because of the simplicity of its definition, π has become more entrenched in popular culture than almost any other mathematical concept,[3] and is firm common ground between mathematicians and non-mathematicians.[4] Reports on the latest, most-precise calculation of π are common news items;[5][6][7] the record as of September 2011, if verified, stands at 5 trillion decimal digits.[8]


There’s something fascinating about a concept so easily defined that results in a number that is an infinite, never repeating fraction.  Perhaps that's why Pi Day has such a place popular culture.  (It probably also helps that March 14 was Einstein’s birthday, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog.)

Pi Day affords a golden opportunity for educators to introduce math related activities to their students.  There’s a rich trove of on line learning resources, with suggestions for learning activities.   For those of you who are curious, I’ve listed a few links below this post. 

What’s Pi Day to me?  Well I love a good pun.  The opportunity to celebrate a math concept by baking something good to eat appeals to my sense of whimsy.  Heck, any reason to bake a pie is a good reason in my world!  The fact that it involves word play is just a bonus.

As many of you know, I plan my meals daily, based upon what we have on hand.  It’s rare for me to pre-plan a series of meals—or even a single meal—because, with just the two of us, it’s difficult to know how many leftovers we’ll have.  Not using those leftovers as ingredients in subsequent meals results in too much waste.  Pi Day is kind of an exception to my “no planning” rule though, because I have yet to see a pie of any sort go to waste around here. 

Today’s menu was actually decided long in advance, when I picked up our good food box almost a month ago.  There was broccoli in the box so I blanched some and froze it with today’s supper in mind.  In honour of Pi Day we’ll be having a broccoli and cheddar quiche for supper tonight, and applesauce pie for dessert.  Look for both recipes in coming posts.

Will you be celebrating Pi Day at your house?  Do you do any Pi Day activities with your kids?  I’d love to hear about them.

Pi Day Activity Links:
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image source: sciencebuzz.org