happy pi day, my darling mathletes!

I wrote this in 2004:

This morning over breakfast, I said to my wife, "Happy π day!"

"Happy pie day? What the hell are you talking about?"

"No, not 'pie'," I said. "'π'."

"Not 'pie,' but 'pie.'" She was clearly not amused. "Isn't it a little early to be drinking?"

"Anne, look at the date on the calendar."

"Yes it's march 14th, and you're going to watch WrestleMania dos equis* with your brother." She frowned. "Are you trying to tell me that you're taking a pie to Jeremy's house? Because if you expect me to make you a pie . . ."

"No, I don't expect you to make me a pie." I said, well into that area where you've explained the joke so much, it's never going to be funny.

"Today is March fourteenth. That makes it 3.14 on the calendar. 3.14 is also known as π."

She blinked a few times.

"Oh. It's π day."

"Yes!" I said. "And at 1:59 pm, it will be even more π day. Isn't that cool!?"

She took a long, thoughtful drink from her coffee mug, carefully set it down and said, "You are such a nerd."

And to commemorate pi day in 2009:

I present this incredibly awesome song by my friend Chris Hardwick:


This year … well, I got nothin'. Except maybe … maybe we could use today's date as an excuse to talk about math with kids!

Yeah! Check this out: When I think back on my years in school, I realize that math wasn't hard, math was just boring. Until I got into high school and started solving equations in algebra, which were framed as puzzles for me to solve, math was always framed as this collection of facts that we just had to know by rote, because … well, nobody really knows why, we just do it and stop asking so many questions you damn troublemaking kid.

Maybe we could use today's date, 3.14, and its relation to π as an opportunity to show kids how numbers and mathematics are all around us all the time, like a secret language or something fun like that.

…or you could just watch the video Chris and Mike made and leave it at that. I'm not the boss of you.

Edited to add: Over at Geek Mom, they're doing a ton of fun math stuff for kids today that's all pi-centric. I highly recommend taking a look.

40 thoughts on “happy pi day, my darling mathletes!”

  1. I teach 7th grade math and pi day always falls during spring break, so i told my students to enjoy some pizza pi or apple pi, but be sure to avoid the cow pi. They were only slightly amused.

  2. My 12yo is having a pi day celebration at school. They are eating pie, drew pi plates, and the kid who can recite the longest pi string gets a prize.
    I didn’t know about pi day until just a few years ago. I’m 44. My teachers really missed out on making math fun. Well, more fun than Fr. Harvey’s chalk-covered priest clothes…
    xo Susie

  3. Happy Pi day to you too! Theoretically, it is also “pie” day, considering pies are circular.
    [1:59pm OR 15:9 and 26 millisec (3pm, 9 seconds and 26 milliseconds)]

  4. While I used to love Pi and Pi Day, I feel obligated to link to this video, which I found today:
    It tells how Pi is actually wrong. Not incorrect or inaccurate, just kind of a dumb constant to be using. What we should’ve been using instead is Tau, which is actually 2*pi. If I had used Tau in high school, all this circles in radians crap would’ve made some real sense, not to mention sine and cosine.
    I don’t want to ruin the whole celebration however, so I’ll also link to this video, called “Lose Yourself (in the Digits)”, which is awesome:
    So, I’ll see you all on 6/28 for Tau Day!

  5. It might not be Pi Day in other countries, but according to Phil Plait, in Europe today is 14/3, which is the sum of 3 consecutive primes (43+47+53), and also of 5 consecutive primes (11+13+17+19+23+29+31).

  6. @karohemd — Ah, yes. But those of you in countries where day-month is the standard can celebrate a Pi Day of your own on 22/7. Everybody wins!
    Last year I went on a mad baking spree and made four different kinds of mini pies (baked in muffin tins, you see) for my book club and co-workers. And then my back hurt. :) This year I’m recovering from PAX East and getting ready for a work trip, so if there’s pie at all it’ll be from a bakery.

  7. I took dutch apple pies in for both my daughter’s math and science teachers, and much to my surprise, they both said they had pi lessons planned for the day to celebrate.

  8. Happy Pi Day from the Tech Support Center at Tektronix in Beaverton Oregon! We celebrate every year with a Pi recitation and a Pie Potluck. So happy to see a fellow nerds geeking it up for Einstein’s birthday. Wish you could be here (we could use some help with all the pie!).

  9. I don’t agree. I think having ranges from [-Pi, Pi] is more useful than [-Tau/2, Tau/2].
    But charge should definately have been defined in a way to make electrons positive.

  10. I can see your point about [-Pi, Pi], but I feel like I was always taught [0, 2Pi], so as the video described, made things like a quarter circle being Pi/2 (did I do that right? See, I still don’t get it!). I feel like I would’ve gotten a clearer grasp of radians if a quarter circle had been Tau/4.
    And Euler’s Identity is just icing on the cake. Or whipped cream on the Tau (which is 2 Pies).

  11. THIS REMIND ME!!!! If you haven’t discovered Vi Hart yet, you’re totally missing out. She calls herself a recreational mathemusician, and she makes incredibly entertaining and informative math videos on YouTube about mobius strips and triangles. She makes math fun. You can’t call yourself a geek and not watch her videos!
    Ok, you can. But she is brilliantly fun.

  12. Or like what the Macho Man used to say:
    “Oooh, yeah!! The Macho Man, Randy Savage, can’t wait for Wrestlemania so he getcha in the square-circle and π ya down to size! Yeah!”
    Or maybe you’re thinking that the Hitman’s really full name was Bret Hart πs? Or about Austin 3.14? Or perhaps smelling what the Rock is baking?
    Nevermind… ;)

  13. Yaknow, with Star Wars Day, and π Day, and Int’l Talk Like a Pirate Day, you’d think there’d be a Geek calender around somewhere… I found this: http://bit.ly/dG1AGn but it’s incomplete and several years old.
    Any more complete, current ones out there for us poor geeks?

  14. “Maybe we could use today’s date, 3.14, and its relation to π as an opportunity to show kids how numbers and mathematics are all around us all the time, like a secret language or something fun like that.”
    Loads of good links aiming to do exactly that at Julie Brennan’s Living Math site.
    As for Pi Day, my gang is celebrating with pizza.

  15. I couldn’t excite my awesome geek daughter about math, at all, until I got her copies of Danica McKellar’s (Winnie from The Wonder Years) books relating Algebra problems to shopping at the mall and boys lol.

  16. BAHAHA!!! I love reading amazing nerd-geek-people’s blogs! Happy Pi day!! And you’re awesome Wil! Thanks for sharing you’re amazingness with the world through your blog and other such things! :D

  17. During an all-night art session in college, we listened to this song on repeat for several hours on end. In consequence, I can sing π to over 30 digits. I feel like that’s the sort of thing you’d use as a pick-up line at Genius bars.

  18. Yesterday was our first wedding anniversary (and we had our first dance at 1:59pm). I like number patterns and puzzles, but it also makes it so much fun, and easier, for others to remember (once we had the 3.14 calendar/pi conversation with our families).
    We received the matching think geek pi sweatshirts at the holidays and on other days my husband jumps at the chance to wear matching sweatshirts but yesterday he thought it might be overdoing it to wear matching sweatshirts with pi, to a restaurant named pi (a pizza place in St Louis), on pi day. Silly husband.

  19. Pi day 2004 was around when i started following this blog i think. Pi was the (logo? header? something) at the soapbox at the time,and then it changed to something else. So many of the places i go online these days are stuff i first heard about here.

  20. My kids have grown up and are off to college, but at their high schools, the math department was so bad, boring, and bland that they would have never even considered having a Pi day. God forbid they do anything to creatively challenge the minds of our youth.
    Instead, they sit back on their tenure, tell the kids to read a chapter, and then bang out a standardized test.
    I really hate what the public school system has become.

  21. Speaking as someone who knows 338 digits of pi…I can officially say that 3/14 is the one day a year that I’m actually cool. I think I have used it as a pickup line actually…it does wonders on geeks.

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