Education

Pi Day ‘Sliced’ with Events and, of Course, Pie

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Today is Pi Day, 3/14, or the 14th day of the third month of the year, three point one four corresponding roughly to the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter

Computers have determined the value of pi to 2.7 trillion decimal places with no end in sight. No patterns of repetition have been discerned.

A Japanese claims to have memorized the number of digits to the right of the decimal point that exceed 100,000. The Guinness Book of World Records recognizes a claim of 70,000.

While the Babylonians and Egyptians discovered and came close to determining the ratio about 1600 BCE – 25/8 and 256/81 respectively — it was not called pi until the early 18th century when European mathematicians named it pi, the first letter of perimetrios, Greek for periphery.

Among the ancients, Archimedes of Syracuse came closest to determining the value of pi in 250 BCE. He died in 212 BCE, slain by a Roman soldier when they conquered Syracuse during the second Punic War. Legend has it that his last words were a request to the soldier who entered his study not to disturb the circles he was studying.

Pi Day, also the anniversary of the birth of Albert Einstein (born 1879), will be observed in the Mahoning Valley at:

  • The Oh Wow! Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology.
  • In area schools. The principal of a school in Warren will allow a student to stuff a cream pie in his face.
  • With a 3.14-mile “trail run challenge” in Canfield (but this Saturday).
  • A showing of the 1998 movie “Pi,” billed as a psychological thriller, at 6:45 this evening in the mathematics and statistics department’s suite of offices at Youngstown State University.
  • Several restaurants, mostly pizzerias, will remind their patrons that pi and pie are homophones. It helps that most pies are circular and that by cutting from the center to the circumference the server carves a radius or half of the diameter. (Pizza is Italian for pie, so pizza pie is redundant.)

At the Oh Wow museum, admission today has been reduced to $3.14 or the donation of a pie, says Colleen Ruby, its director of visitor services.

Jenne Battaglia, Oh Wow education coordinator, has been preparing for today’s schedule that includes three scavenger hunts. Winners receive a 14-inch pizza from the Avalon Downtown next door with their choice of toppings laid out atop the cheese in the form of pi, owner Anne Massullo said yesterday.

The children on the one scheduled tour, from the YWCA preschool, will make Pi Day bracelets, Battaglia said. Each bead on the bracelets they string has a color that represents a digit: 3 is green, 1 is red, 4 is white, 5 is pink, 9 is orange. So the first six beads on the pi bracelet would be green, red, white, red, pink, orange followed by yellow (2), blue (6), pink, green, orange, black (8), orange, clear (7), orange — until they run out of string.

Battaglia has circles of various sizes from the hole in a straw to a 1.5-foot piece of light gray cardboard. She will show that regardless of the area of the circle, the ratio remains a constant. ”Size doesn’t matter,” she says.

Battaglia also will show visitors the InspireWorks room where 425 loops made of construction paper hang high on three walls, each loop a color that represents a digit in pi. “That is a five-year effort,” Battaglia said, and she hopes to add a few more loops today and continue this year, next year if need be, until the newest loops meet the first green loop.

And she will host contests for students to see who can memorize the most digits of pi. The museum record is 27, she says, and “The record may be broken. We’ll see.”

On March 3, Ruby emailed restaurants in the Valley, inviting them to observe today by asking their patrons, “Did you know it’s Pi Day?” and to feature pies. Response from bakeries and pizzerias was heaviest, she said, while the Eat’n Park in Warren told her it was having its own Pi Day celebration.

YSU undergraduate and graduate students join mathematics faculty tonight in Lincoln Hall to watch “Pi,” starring Sean Gullette, Mark Margolis, Ben Shenkman and Pamela Hart. The film is about a paranoid mathematician who searches for a “key number” he thinks will “unlock the secrets of the universe.” Darren Aronofsky, not Ed Wood (who wrote and directed “Plan Nine from Outer Space”), is the director. Still it promises to be fun, says the department chairwoman, professor Angela Spalsbury, who promises that pizza will be served afterward, possibly with the toppings shaped like pi.

The Mahoning County Career and Technical Center will celebrate Pi Day a bit late, at 10 a.m. this Saturday, with a 3.14-mile trail run challenge intended to raise funds for Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley, Matt Putzier announced Monday.

Putzier is coordinating the race that “will cover pavement, grassy fields and muddy trails,” he says, beginning at the school campus, 7300 N. Palmyra Road, Canfield. Registration begins at 9 a.m., the race an hour later. Registration fee is $25 through Friday but $30 on Saturday.

Proceeds will be used to fill the food pantry of the career center. Students, as part of their course work, prepare meal for clients of the Rescue Mission, Putzier says.

All who finish receive a pie, he said.

In Warren City Schools, curriculum director Regina Teutsch and a middle school math teacher, Nikki Littleton, might be more excited than their 350 students participating in today’s activities. They have printed Pi Day T-shirts (for sale), will distribute Pi Day cookies to everyone and have ordered pizza to serve middle school students.

Students at the McGuffey school will have the chance to “pie the principal in the face during lunch hour on stage,” Littleton says.

A teacher at the Lincoln school, Donato Nerone, is sponsoring a contest to see which seventh- or eighth-grader can memorize the most digits in pi. Winner gets a $20 gift card.

“Pi is introduced in the sixth grade,” Teutsch says, which is why the focus of the activities is on the two buildings.

Chris McMurray, veteran mathematics teacher at David Anderson High School, in Lisbon, is observing Pi Day with his students for the sixth year. McMurray has long taught calculus but on Pi Day he holds small discussions with his students about using pi to graph polar equations, he says.

And he serves pie. You can almost see the twinkle in his eye at the other end of the phone when he’s asked the most popular pie. “My favorite flavor is free,” he responds.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.