14 March 2008

What Means This Pi Day?

When I was in school, we had math.

In math we had ten-times tables (10 x 1 = 10, 10 x 2 = 20,...), which of course are part of the nice easy break between the nine-times tables and the twelve-times tables. But we didn't have 100th Day. I never had to bring 100 of anything to class, and risk scorn for my parents if they'd sent me in with the same hundred unimaginative items that several other children brought.

In math we eventually had π. I recall my mother devising a home lesson to teach me about about that unusual number before I'd learned to divide fractions, which turned out to be a recipe for frustration. But in school, even after our math lesson plans had caught up to π, we didn't have Pi Day every 14 March. Indeed, once I'd mastered those fractions I believe I would have asked why 3/14 isn't called ".2142857... Day." I was that kind of kid.

But now 100th Day and Pi Day appear to be firmly established on school calendars--particularly the latter, since it's the same day in every school. (Of course, schools in countries where people abbreviate today's date as 14/3/08 will never have the pleasure of celebrating Pi Day.)

As for how to celebrate, teachers' favorite activities include:

  • "writing myths on the origin, creation, or the original use of Pi"
  • "make a song!"
  • "my 8th graders have always created their own T shirts using Fabric Paint or Fabric Markers"
  • "making a pi paper chain and bracelet (each digit represented by a different color)"
  • "pi shuffleboard"
YouTube archives such student projects as this "Pi Day Movie", from three boys somewhere in the north (to judge by their accents). Apparently, Pi Day activities need not contain any mathematical content at all.

When I was in school, we had math.


Jay said...

2 years and 12 days ago, I went to see the a cappella group "Chapter 6." Near the end, one member, who usually runs sound in the back, sang two songs: his signature "7th Wheel" song, and a song called "Pi," the only non-a cappella arrangement they had. In it, he played a piano and sang the first thousand digits of Pi along with it... I wish it was on CD...

Nathan said...

I hadn't heard of Pi Day until a few years ago, and I was unaware of 100th Day until just now.

I wonder if there will be extra-special Pi Day celebrations in 2016.

Glenn Ingersoll said...

I guess we had math in my school, too. I loathed everything about it. It made me cry. It had nothing to do with my life so far as I could tell. It was boring and frustrating and stupid. Too bad, huh?