Pi Day


Photo by Laura Nicolescu

Laura Nicolescu, Co-Editor-In-Chief

For most of us, March 14 is just another dreaded Monday- and the first day back at school after spring break, in fact. But a few of us might realize there’s something special about this Monday, something that only comes once a year. Beware: This one’s for the math geeks.

Celebrated in countries that follow the month/day date format, because the digits in the date, March 14 or 3/14, are the first three digits of π (3.14), this Monday is Pi Day!

Founded by Physicist Larry Shaw in 1988, Pi day celebrates the Greek letter “π,” the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is approximately 3.14159265 (although I could go on infinitely, I’d rather not bore you if you happen to still be reading this). It is an irrational number, which means it cannot be expressed as a ratio of whole numbers, and its decimal representation never ends or repeats.

Pi has been calculated to over one trillion digits beyond its decimal point. As an irrational and transcendental number, it will continue infinitely without repetition or pattern. While only a handful of digits are needed for typical calculations- only 39 digits past the decimal are needed to accurately calculate the spherical volume of our entire universe- pi’s infinite and patternless nature makes it a fun challenge to memorize (if you’re super bored), and to computationally calculate more and more digits (if you’ve never been so bored in your entire life).

According to exploratorium.edu, the first calculation of pi was done by Archimedes of Syracuse (287–212 BC). Archimedes approximated the area of a circle by using the Pythagorean Theorem to find the areas of two regular polygons: the polygon inscribed within the circle and the polygon within which the circle was circumscribed.

Pi is a constant number, meaning that for all circles of any size, pi will be the same, making it extremely useful when solving geometry problems involving circles, such as finding the area of a circle and the volume of a cylinder.

So what can the ordinary person do to celebrate this day (besides memorizing pi, but I did say ordinary)?

Pi is a homophone of pie. Celebrate Pi Day by having lots and lots of pie!

Have a pie baking contest. Ask participants to bake pi shaped pies. Combine it with a pie eating competition.

Have a pi recitation contest. Anyone who can recite the most digits of the constant gets to take home a pie.

Embrace your geekness. There’s no use denying it if you’ve made it this far in this article. Wear a t-shirt that has the numbers of pi on it or sport some pi shaped accessories. Can’t find any? Make your own.

Eat foods that start with a pi, like pineapples and pizza or foods that are circular in shape like pancakes and cookies.

Watch the Life of Pi!

And don’t forget there are many other days during the year when one can honor pi:

  • March 4: The day marks the passing of 14% of the 3rd month of the year.
  • April 5: By this day 3.14 months of the year have passed.
  • November 10: The 314th day of the year (November 9 in leap years).

Hopefully now you’ll know, it’s not just another Monday. Happy Pi Day, Titans.