Let Them Eat Pie!

by Amy McGarry

Math enthusiasts and pie connoisseurs: It’s our day! I’m a huge fan of pie. I believe it’s underrated. Why do we always have cake for events and not pie? In my humble opinion, pie is so much better than cake. And don’t even get me started on the best of the best pies: the pizza pie. For that reason, I’ve jumped onto the Pi Day bandwagon. Any reason to celebrate pie. Or, if you insist, pi.
March 14 (3/14) is celebrated around the world as Pi Day. But what is pi, anyway? Pi was a big deal in high school geometry. We learned that pi (Greek letter “π”) is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant – the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter – which is approximately 3.14. The diameter of a circle is the distance from edge to edge when measured through the center. Pi is used to measure the circumference of a circle (distance around the boundary) using the formula C=2πr. Pi is also used to measure the volume of a sphere, calculated with V=4/3πr3. As a constant number, pi will always be the same for any circle of any size.

Of course, pi doesn’t stop at 3.14. One of the fascinations with pi is that it is literally infinite, continuing forever without repetition or pattern. Pi has been calculated to over 50 trillion digits beyond its decimal point. That’s TRILLION with a T! Luckily, only the first several digits are needed for most calculations.

So, clearly, pi is useful. But my research taught me pi is useful beyond anything I imagined, or learned in high school geometry. One need only visit the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) website for the broader implications. Here I learned that pi has infinite (pun intended) value to space exploration. To explore circles and spheres in space, engineers at NASA build spacecraft “that make elliptical orbits and guzzle fuel from tanks, and measure distances on circular wheels.” Pi is also used to discover what planets are made of and how deep “alien” oceans are. Pi is one of NASA’s best friends!

In celebration of this friendship, NASA offers a NASA Pi Day Challenge for educators to use with their students. I read through the math challenge until I went cross-eyed. Apparently, math education has come a long way since the 1980s! Wanna have a go at it? Visit the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory website at: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/edu/nasapidaychallenge/

Speaking of the 1980’s, Pi Day was founded in 1988 by Larry Shaw who worked as a physicist at the San Francisco science museum, the Exploratorium. Shaw organized a Pi Day celebration by marching around one of the Exploratorium circular spaces with staff and the public. It was a pi parade of sorts. Then they ate fruit pies. The Exploratorium continues to hold Pi Day celebrations.
In 2009, the United States House of Representatives passed legislation making Pi Day an official national holiday. The idea caught on globally, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization designated Pi Day as the International Day of Mathematics in November 2019.

According to history.com, “…mathematicians, scientists and teachers hope the holiday will help increase interest in math and science nationwide, through instruction, museum exhibitions, pie-eating (or throwing) contests and much more.”

The “much more” includes school competitions to see which student can recite pi to the highest number of decimal places. Reciting 15 of the first digits is considered impressive. And yet, some children go way above and beyond. When Floridian Sree Harsha Siliveri was six years old, he recited more than 1,200 digits from memory. Last year, third grader Keshav Hebsur from Michigan memorized more than 1,300 digits. His goal is 10,000.

A goal of memorizing 10,000 digits is noble indeed, but it’s not even close to the Guinness Book of World Records record holder. Rajveer Meena, a native of Rajasthan, India, set the world record in 2015 by reciting an astonishing 70,000 digits. His method for memorizing is associating the numbers with an image of a color, person, event or object to recall sequences of numbers. Maybe I should try his method for memorizing my social security number, a feat with which I often struggle.

Given my issues with remembering numbers, my celebration of Pi Day will focus on the other pies. I plan to take advantage of the pizza and pie discounts, deals and freebies on Pi Day. If you want to join me in this celebration, check out these local deals:

• Papa Murphy’s: On March 14th, guests can order a large, thin crust, one-topping pizza for only $3.14 at participating locations.
• Blaze Pizza: Enjoy $3.14 pizzas all day long at one of their 240+ locations.
• Whole Foods: Take $3.14 off any of their large bakery pies.
• Bojangles’: Bojangles’ will offer three sweet potato pies for $3.14 all day Wednesday.
• Cici’s Pizza Buffet: Buy one adult buffet at regular price, get a second adult buffet for $3.14. Find their coupon online!
• Burger King: Enjoy this pie-ssbility at Burger King! When you spend $3.14 or more on Pi Day (3.14), get a free Hersey’s Sundae Pie – while supplies last.
• Kona Grill: Celebrate the mathematical holiday with a sweet treat. Get a piece of apple pis for just $3.14 with the purchase of any entree or steak purchase
• Marie Callender’s: Get $3.14 off select Marie Callender’s frozen pies when shopping online at selected retailers, including Walmart, Kroger, and Amazon Fresh. Go to Marie Callender’s on March 14 to claim this special (offer while supplies last).

If by some strange anomaly you are not a fan of pizza, nor pie, go ahead and make a birthday cake in celebration of Pi Day. Before you eat your cake, you can sing “Happy Birthday” to one of the greatest minds of all time: Pi Day is Albert Einstein’s birthday.

Amy McGarry grew up in Spokane Valley, Washington. After a 20 year hiatus, she moved back to Spokane Valley where she lives with her husband, daughter and two cats. She is the author of “I am Farang: Adventures of a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand” available on Amazon.com, Auntie’s Bookstore, and Barnes and Noble.