Good STEM Fun, Any Way You Slice It
Discovery Education Celebrates National Pi Day
*Can you guess which iconic mathematical thinker was born on March 14th?*
No Pattern, No Problem
Where to begin with Pi? At the end? That might take awhile – seeing as there is none! But actually, that’s what people love about this mysterious mathematical constant: it’s never-ending string of digits, which we generally shorten to 3.14, but which are indeed infinite. Being probably the most famous example in the world of an irrational number, Pi cannot be written as a ratio of two integers, meaning it has a decimal that goes on forever, without ever producing a pattern…at least so far!
As the human drive for knowledge continues, so continues the quest to decode Pi. In fact, the study of Pi’s infinite decimals has developed into a field all its own, known as Piphology. And what might have seemed like “Pi in the sky” calculations to mathematicians of the past are now increasingly possible using the power of digital technology. In 2019, a team at Google used a cloud-based approach to break the world record for calculating the most accurate value of Pi, which measured out to 31 trillion digits!
While its history may not be quite as lengthy as its digits, it is safe to say that there have been many fingers in the Pi over the years! The recorded history of Pi goes back over 4 millennia, with independent calculations surviving from ancient Babylon, Egypt, India, and China. Initial calculations were made primarily from laborious physical measurements, such as rope stretching techniques in ancient Babylon. Archimedes of Greece was the first person to use an algorithmic approach to calculate Pi in the 3rd Century BC. It wasn’t until the 18th Century that Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler popularized the Greek symbol ? or “Pi”, which is the 16th letter of the Greek alphabet and is short for “Periphery”.
Today, Pi is far from a peripheral concept in mathematics. Since it defines the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, Pi is fundamental in everyday calculations involving building and construction, music theory, medical procedures, air travel, communications, and space flight – just to name a few! And there’s no better proof of Pi’s perennial staying power than the fact that it now has its own holiday: congress officially declared March 14th (3.14) a US National Holiday, and all thanks to the inspired efforts of one math-loving man.
An All-Around Good Time
It was back in 1988 that Pi Day first took shape in the mind of Larry Shaw (1939–2017), a true hero to everyone here at Discovery Education! Larry was working at San Francisco’s Exploratorium, a public learning laboratory dedicated to creating inquiry-based experiences that transform learning, when he inaugurated the first-ever Pi Day celebration, using a variety of fun festivities– and lots of pi(e)! The event was a big hit in the community, and the tradition continues to this day, with the simple goal of making an important mathematical concept fun and engaging through interactive learning.
At Discovery Education, we apply this philosophy in everything we do, from our award-winning digital textbooks to our diverse multimedia resources to the largest professional learning network of its kind. We’re on a mission to empower educators and inspire students with interactive resources that let learning come alive in and out of the classroom. Using state-of-the-art dynamic digital resources, Discovery Education is currently helping to improve academic achievement in over 140 countries and territories, serving approximately 4.5 million educators and 45 million students worldwide.
Explore Immersive STEM Experiences
Help unlock the limitless learning potential of students using these fun STEM-powered programs:
Siemens STEM DAY
A variety of tools and resources to help reinvent STEM curriculum, including new and original hands-on activities, a teacher support center, and the Possibility Grant Sweepstakes.
Finding the Maker in everyone by inspiring both educators and students with impactful resources that get to the heart of STEAM learning.
Science Fair Central
“Learn by doing” with standards-aligned, hands-on activities that encourage exploration and spark curiosity in students.
Young Scientist Lab
Illuminating the science of everyday life with custom educator resources that keep students entertained, engaged, and working towards innovation.
Girls Get STEM
Explore standards-aligned curriculum designed to open all students’ minds to a world of possibilities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
Check out Discovery Education Experience for other great Pi Day Activities to engage students, and be sure to share your Pi Day pride with us on social at @DiscoveryEd using #PiDay!