March 14 marks Pi Day, an annual celebration of the mathematical sign pi. Founded in 1988 by physicist Larry Shaw, March 14 was selected because the numerical date (3.14) represents the first three digits of pi, and it also happens to be Albert Einstein’s birthday. Pi Day is celebrated in many ways, with festivals and various pie foods but Pi day is more than just an excuse to eat pie. It’s also an opportunity to learn some amazing mathematical facts about π, including some that even the biggest math fans among you might not know! Via BigThink
While there are many reasons to celebrate the day, mathematically inclined residents of any country that writes the date in (month/day) fashion should immediately be excited by the prospect of seeing the numbers “3” and “14” next to one another, as 3.14 is famously a good approximation for one of the most well-known numbers that can’t neatly be written down as just a simple set of digits: π. Pronounced “pi” and celebrated worldwide by baking enthusiasts as “Pi day,” it’s also a great opportunity to share some facts about π with the world.
While the first two facts that you’ll read here about π are generally very well-known, I seriously doubt anyone, even an actual mathematician, will get to the end of the list and know all 11 of these facts. Follow along and see how well you do!
1.) Pi, or π as we’re going to call it from now on, is the ratio of a perfect circle’s circumference to its diameter. One of the very first lessons I ever gave when I began teaching was to have my students bring in any “circle” from home. It could’ve been a pie tin, a paper plate, a mug with a circular bottom or top, or any other object that had a circle somewhere on it, with only one catch: I would give you a flexible tape measure, and you’d have to measure both the circumference and the diameter of your circle.
With more than 100 students between all of my classes, each student took their measured circumference and divided it by their measured diameter, which should’ve given an approximation for π. As it turned out, whenever I run this experiment and average all of the students’ data together, the average always comes out to somewhere between 3.13 and 3.15: often landing right on 3.14, which is the best 3-digit approximation of π of all. Approximating π, although there are many methods that are better than this crude one I used, is unfortunately the best that you can do.
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