Pi Day

Celebrated annually on or near March 14 (3/14, in honor of the first three digits in the decimal representation of pi), Pi Day is a great day to explore some fun new areas of math, to learn a bit more about one of math’s most illustrious constants, or to use as an excuse to eat some pie!

In our department the Math Club hosts the Pi Day Challenge, on which "winning" faculty are pied in the face. See photos here!

Below, you’ll find links to several activities where you can explore pi in new or different ways, and learn a bit more about our favorite constant along the way. 

  • The NASA Pi Day Challenge (https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/edu/nasapidaychallenge/): Did you know that pi is even important to NASA?  Check out several explorations courtesy of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to get an idea of how NASA scientists use and think about pi! 
  • Buffon’s Needle (https://mste.illinois.edu/activity/buffon/):  Why on earth should there be any relationship between dropping needles on a lined sheet of paper and pi?  Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, an 18th century scientist and mathematician, posed a surprisingly simple question about dropping needles on a lined sheet of paper in which pi makes a surprising appearance!  In the link above, you can learn more about Buffon’s Needle, as well as simulate Buffon’s experiment and see the amazing (and mathematical!) emergence of pi!
  • Amazing Formulas for Pi (https://www.cantorsparadise.com/ramanujans-magnificent-formula-for-pi-9801-1103-8-%CF%80-22fd7197d650): When circles are involved, mathematicians usually aren’t too surprised to see pi show up.  But Ramanujan, an Indian mathematician working near the turn of the 20th century, had a knack for finding pi in unexpected places.  The link above shares a bit more about Ramanujan’s formula for pi.