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Celebrating Great Female Mathematicians on Pi Day

Math enthusiasts at Sallie B. Howard School are looking forward to Pi Day on March 14 during Women’s History Month. Teachers, parents, and students can all join in on celebrating pi, STEM subjects, female mathematicians and the positive impacts they have made on the world. It’s only fitting that this celebration of everyone’s favorite math symbol falls on 3/14, which matches the first three digits in pi.

What Is a Pi?

Pi, π, or 3.14159… is the ratio between a circle’s diameter (length from one side of the circle to the other, through the center) and the circle’s circumference (the length all around the perimeter of the circle). Elementary or high school students may recognize pi easily, as it is used to calculate the radius, the diameter, the circumference, or the area of a circle.

Pi is an example of an irrational number. You cannot express it as a fraction, although 22/7 approximates its value. The equivalent decimal for pi never ends and doesn’t settle into any kind of repetition. Thus, it has always captured the imagination of math students.

What Is Pi Day And Why Do We Celebrate It?

Our modern conception of pi was invented by William Jones, a famous mathematician, in 1706. However, its roots stem back to the Babylonians, who used the value of 3 to find the area of a circle. The Ancient Greeks, particularly the prominent philosopher and mathematician Archimedes, accomplished the first approximate calculation of π as being between 3 1/7 and 3 10/71. Several hundred years later, Zu Chongzhi, a Chinese mathematician, calculated pi to be 3.14159292035 which is extraordinarily close to being accurate. 

Today, we have greater accuracy and precision. Thanks to supercomputers, we can calculate 62.8 trillion decimals. Thankfully, Math equations in school don’t require that level of detail!

The Pi Day we celebrate today began with American physicist Larry Shaw (Lawrence N. Shaw) and his co-workers at the San Francisco Exploratorium on March 14, 1988. Shaw came up with the idea to link the pi (3.14159) to March 14 (3/14). And so they had a mini-celebration, starting with eating pies. It became a holiday for the museum the following year, and every year since then has become a celebration. Pi Day was officially recognized as a national holiday in 2009 and became the International Day of Mathematics in 2019. 

There are various engaging and exciting activities on Pi Day such as eating delicious pies, participating in pi quizzes, performing pi recitations in schools, taking advantage of pizza and pie restaurant deals and discounts, and engaging in other enjoyable activities aimed at making Math more appealing and fascinating. The other dates for the Pi Day celebration include July 22 (22/7, an approximation of π) and June 28 (6.28, an approximation of 2π or tau).

group of students with hands up in classroom during a lesson

How Can You Use Pi In Everyday Life

Students often ask how mathematics is relevant in everyday life. Pi is a value that is used to accomplish amazing things everyday including:

  • Studying the structure of the eye
  • Understanding DNA
  • Designing and constructing buildings
  • Grasping musical theory
  • Designing and engineering aircrafts and spacecrafts
  • Tracking population statistics
  • Designing GPS and other navigation devices
  • Comprehending ocean waves and light waves

How Can We Have Fun on Pi Day?

Consider some of the following ideas to engage kids, teenagers, and adults:

  • Read About Famous Female Mathematicians: Honor the contributions of Dorothy VaughanKatherine JohnsonRaman Parimala and Marjorie Lee Browne, by reading about these history-making female mathematicians with your family.
  • Enjoy Pi-Themed Food: It can’t be Pi Day without pie! You can also have a party with other “pi”-themed foods such as pizza, pineapple, pickles, pierogies, pitas, or pimentos.
  • Measure Circles: For a younger crew, you can supply various circular objects and have them measure the circumference and diameter, show them how to divide the circumference by the diameter, and have them notice how it comes out to 3.14 every single time.
  • Explore the History of Pi: Have students research interesting historical facts about pi, and create a timeline showing all the ways pi has changed over the years. You can also use the opportunity to get students interested in other mathematical discoveries and inventions.

At Sallie B Howard School of Arts & Science, we are proud to encourage students of all ages to get excited about math and science. We not only enrich our students’ lives with STEM subjects, but we also motivate them to get involved in enriching programs such as Mathcounts. We prepare kids all year round for this exciting competition, focusing on building critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Contact us if you would like to learn more about how we strive to inspire mathematical minds!

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