Pi Day has always had a special appeal for number aficionados, but this year is the most auspicious ever. Named after the mathematical constant Pi (π), the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, Pi Day was set for March 14 because pi rounds to 3.14.
But wait, there’s more! As an irrational number, pi is a number that literally never ends. By extending the decimals by two places, pi can also be rounded to 3.1415, making this year’s Pi Day the once-in-a-century occurrence of the year, day and month coinciding with pi’s first digits.
This year, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is taking the decimal-place matching a step further. While the school has often announced their admission decisions on Pi Day, this year they’re posting the class of 2019 on Pi Day at precisely 9:26 a.m., the first eight digits of pi (3.1415926). They’ve even produced a humorous video to spoof it.
Celebrations have increased exponentially since Pi Day was first established in 1988 in San Francisco’s Exploratorium science museum. Physicist Steven Shaw launched the first pi party with a procession around the museum, culminating with a pie feed.
Since then, a number of imaginative events have added in to commemorate the quirky nod to mathematics, including a “Pi K” run (3.14 miles) hosted by the Illinois Science Council; Princeton’s annual Pi Day, which doubles as a birthday party for Albert Einstein and features an Einstein look-alike contest; and a list in the Washington Post of assorted pizza parlors and places to buy pie for $3.14, as well as the puzzling offer to calculate the circumference of your head using pi at the National Cryptologic Museum.
And pi lessons don’t have to be just for math teachers. A lyrical music video translates the numbers of pi into What Pi Sounds Like.
We think Pi Day is a great way to celebrate STEM and see math in everyday life. Then again, it could just be another good excuse to eat pie.