National Pi Day, which falls on March 14th, or 3/14, is a holiday for math geeks and food savants alike.
A slice of history
Pi, the sixteenth letter of the Greek alphabet, is a mathematical constant. It refers to the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, and can be approximated as 3.14159. There isn’t a final digit, because it is an irrational number without ending or repeating patterns. Known about for over 4,000 years, Pi is used all of the time- by statisticians, pilots, engineers, architects, and many others on a daily basis. It is even necessary in calibrating a car’s speedometer.
The first known celebration of Pi Day was in 1988 at the San Francisco Exploratorium. Physicist Larry Shaw encouraged people to march around a circular space at the laboratory and then eat pie. In 2009, the United States House of Representatives recognized March 14th as National Pi Day. Why do people feel the need to celebrate Pi? As Steven Strogatz eloquently puts it, “the beauty of pi, in part, is that is puts infinity within reach.” The digits of Pi do not end and are without pattern, yet maintain the order of the circle.
Let them eat pi(e)
How do people celebrate Pi Day? Businesses around the country give deals on pie, as well as pizza pie. Bojangles’ is offering three delicious sweet potato pies for $3.14 on March 14th. Check your local pizzerias and bakeries for special pricing on delicious foods. Schools across the country will celebrate on this day. The University of North Carolina at Asheville will be holding a Pi Run/Walk. There will be a 1 mile run starting at 3:14pm or a fun run of 3.14 miles to complete. This event is free, with a suggested donation to benefit the Asheville Initiative for Math at UNCA, which offers tutoring for city schools. The Connecticut Tigers minor league baseball team will sell tickets and food vouchers for their opening game, for $3.14 each. One eatery, &pizza, will be marrying people in three U.S. cities on this mathematical day, with over 50 couples signed up to get married at the pizza joint.
Pi Speakers and Pie Speakers
Are you looking for a mathematician who will inspire your audience? Arthur Benjamin, a math professor and “mathemagician”, astounds audiences with mental calculations, memorizations, and other amazing feats of math. In addition, Olympia LePoint, an award-winning rocket scientist, speaks to help millions overcome their fear of math. Danica McKellar, known for playing Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years, is an internationally recognized mathematician and bestselling author. McKellar speaks to audiences about getting girls excited about math.
What is Pi Day without pie? Beth Howard, famed pie baker and writer, lived in the famous American Gothic House in Iowa, where she taught pie classes and ran a wildly popular Pitchfork Pie Stand, speaks on pie and life. In addition, Duff Goldman, star of Ace of Cakes that aired for 10 seasons on the Food Network and owner of Charm City Cakes, can be booked for cooking events. Dominique Ansel, pastry chef and creator of the cronut, has been awarded many titles and honors for his baking prowess.
Whether you eat pie, throw pie, or revel in the mathematical delight of pi, it is a day to embrace math and food alike.