On March 14 mathematicians celebrate the kind of pi you can’t eat.
Social media gets jammed up with photos of people eating pie as a way to connect the mathematical concept of pi to everyday life. Pi, is represented by the Greek symbol “π” and stands for the ratio of a circle’s circumference divided by its diameter.
The ratio is usually shortened to 3.14, but it has no end when carried out after the decimal. (Hence, Pie Day is 3/14, or March 14.) The number is important because pi is used in math, physics and engineering to solve some basic and complex questions from how big to build something that needs to fit in a circular space to formulas used to create realistic simulations in video games.
“Students start learning about pi when they are in grade school, which would give you the idea that it is only a simple topic in mathematics but in reality it is very complex and mysterious,” said UCF student Elizabeth Peitz, event coordinator for the Collegiate Mathematical Society at UCF. “Having an annual celebration of Pi Day is a fun excuse to get people of all different majors and interests together to celebrate mathematics in general and to eat pie.”
The society will host its first Pi Day celebration at 7 p.m. today at Wackadoo’s in the Student Union. The event is open to the public, and members will share fun math-related activities.
Whoever said mathematicians aren’t fun, hasn’t celebrated Pi day. Because March 14 also happens to be famous physicists Albert Einstein’s birthday, some people get creative and combine celebrations. At the San Francisco Exploratorium (a science center geared for families) there are pizza pie tossing contests, a birthday cake and Happy Birthday song for Einstein and even an online celebration through Second Life. MIT chooses to notify its accepted students on this day and closer to home, the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg offers $3.14 admission, because the artist loved to use math concepts in his work.
Some from the UCF community were involved with an early Pi Day event on March 12 when the philanthropy social group BE Orlando hosted its annual Math, Science, and Pi(e) Festival.
“The event is geared for 50 at-risk children in the community to inspire interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math disciplines and, of course, pie,” said Tee Rogers, an event volunteer and coordinator in the office of the vice president for administration and finance. “This year we once again have a group of UCF students from the Secular Student Alliance at UCF volunteering with us, and assistant professor Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz from the School of Visual Arts and Design will be leading a math art activity at the event.”
Rogers has been involved in pi activities in one way or another for the past 20 years, including the annual UCF Administration and Financial Services employee pie-baking contest to celebrate Pi Day.
“Using fun themes like Pi Day to bring people together, make a difference, build community, inspire, be silly, promote STEM interest in children, educate people about important issues, build bridges across differences, or create opportunity is approximately…awesome,” Rogers said.
The first celebration of Pi Day in 1988 is credited to physicist Larry Shaw who worked for the San Francisco Exploratorium. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution in 2009 recognizing March 14 as Pi Day, which seems to gain more popularity each year.
“And anything that draws people’s attention to mathematics in a fun way should be welcomed,” said UCF mathematics professor Barry Griffiths.