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Pi Day: Inspiring the Future of Math and Technology

Melissa Galloway wrote this on Mar 13 / 0 comments

An avid tech-enthusiast, puzzle-lover, coder, and gamer, Melissa Galloway is currently a Research Assistant at BuzzBee and a University of Washington student with prospective majors in Computer Science and/or Biology. She loves to analyze current trends in science and technology and predict what will become the newest and biggest thing in the market next.

After much anticipation, digit-memorization practice sessions, and pie recipe hunting, Pi Day is finally around the corner. This year, Pi Day falls on 3/14/15, a rare occasion where the first five digits of pi (also expressed as π) in are in standard American date format. While millions of mathematicians, scientists, and pie lovers will celebrate the day with pi digit competitions, pi-themed clothing, and of course, millions of pies, I find the holiday significant in other ways.

Let’s start with the facts. It’s just wrong to approximate the irrational number pi with a date. For one, countries like France and England would be missing out on Pi Day – many countries express days in day/month format. Unfortunately, there’s no such day given by the 3rd day in the 14th month. Furthermore, there has been a proposal with growing following to replace pi altogether with “tau”, or 2π, due to the fact that most fundamental equations in math and science include 2 as a coefficient with π. Personally, I’m just not hooked into Pi Day because pi’s marvel comes from the fact that it cannot be expressed as a finite number. Simplifying it to a three digit, five digit, even 12 digit number, if you want to go down to seconds, is like changing its identity entirely.

Now that I’ve poked holes in the premise of Pi Day, I’ll admit that the annual celebration has a profound influence in inspiring people to pursue science and technology. Of all the “magic” irrational numbers, pi, or approximately 3.14, is the one most often introduced in education at the earliest age. I remember coming across the oddly curved “n” in 5th grade, during my first Pi Day celebration thinking the two-letter word was a typo on the class calendar. Amidst sharing dozens of pies with my fellow classmates, this was the first introduction I had to pi. We had several activities learning how to write the symbol, wrapping strings around circular objects and cutting them in pieces to calculate pi, and having a competition to memorize as many digits of pi as possible.

As a passionate math and technology enthusiast, my early discovery of pi significantly fueled my interest in mathematics. Here is this little three-stroked symbol in my textbook, and it holds the irreplaceable ratio of every circle to its diameter, laying the foundation to hundreds of formulae in mathematics, science, and technology. What’s profound about pi is not only its important application in mathematics and technology, but its role in sparking worldwide interest in these fields.

Pi Day is the only official holiday recognizing a mathematical constant. Whether or not you agree with its generalized approximation on March 14th, it gets people thinking and excited about math. Students (and passionate mathematicians, engineers, and scientists of all kinds) will be celebrating the undeniable importance and beauty of pi this year.

Yes, I admit, Pi Day used to be my favorite day of the year. Maybe my calculus courses in college turned me a little too much into a mathematical purist today. But the important takeaway is that Pi Day holds a special place in the heart of many fellow math-and-technology enthusiasts (it’s also the birthday of Albert Einstein), and is a unique opportunity to inspire future mathematicians, scientists, engineers, and technological innovators all around the world. So, enjoy this upcoming once-in-a-century 3/14/15 Pi Day with your favorite pie, and perhaps enjoy two for the celebration of Tau Day on June 28th.

Melissa Galloway wrote this on Mar 13 / There are 0 comments

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