By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend
Saturday, March 14 is Pi Day – a day in which we celebrate one of the most well-known principles in mathematics.
This year’s Pi Day is especially cool because, written numerically, the date—3/14/15— is the first five digits of pi~3.1415… in order, which is something that only happens once a century.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you’re a student or faculty member), Behrend will be out on spring break on Pi Day, so the Math Club is subtracting a week and a day and celebrating Pi Day on this Friday, March 6 with
….wait for it….
Free PIE for everyone!
Math Club members will be outside of Bruno’s on Friday, March 6 from noon to 2 p.m. handing out pie to satisfy your sweet tooth. And, don’t worry fellow right-brainers, I checked and they are not even making you solve a math problem or anything to get it. Phewww…..
I talked with Adam Combs, lecturer in mathematics, and Math Club adviser to find out a little more about Pi Day, mathematics, and what kind of pie they’ll be serving up.
What is Pi and why is it significant in math?
We all learn the number Pi ~ 3.1415… is significant in math when it comes to circles in geometry. It is related to both the area and circumference of a circle. From this, and something called the “unit circle,” it also is very prevalent in trigonometry, and hence Calculus, and hence Differential Equations, and hence…the list goes on. So, there is so much importance from just one shape, the circle.
The number pi is also given so much importance because it tends to pop up so unexpectedly in other areas of mathematics. For example, you can prove that if you randomly pick two positive whole numbers the probability they have no divisors in common is 6/pi^2. Also, if I add the numbers 1+1/4+1/9+1/16+… to infinity it equals pi^2/6. Now, what does that have to do with circles? 🙂
This year’s actual Pi day (3.14.15) is particularly significant, right? Mathematicians must love that!
People who love math always get excited when something uniquely mathematical happens in daily life. This occurrence of having the date read 3/14/15 which is the first 5 digits of pi~3.1415… in order, happens once in a century.
Why do you love math?
Not to wax philosophic, but I think Galileo said it best when he said, “Mathematics is the language in which God has written the universe.” The belief in a higher being aside, everything in the way our physical world works has some kind of relationship to math. The sense of wonder this inspires is why I love math.
Why do you think some people hate math?
Some people unfortunately do not get to see how interesting, and useful, math can really be. Some people who may have struggled with math in the past may also be a little afraid of math. This is natural, but I think the faculty members here at Behrend are really great at helping with that.
Do you believe that anyone can learn to be good at math?
Do you want to know what my worst subject was in high school? MATH! I hated it because I was afraid of it. I thought I couldn’t do it, and waited until my sophomore year in college to actually take my first college math class.
Then, I found that the teachers I had were willing to take the extra time to help me understand it. Once I started to understand it, the fear went away. Of course, I also worked very hard at it, too. Believe it or not, I am not one of those people who was born with an inherently mathematical brain. So, if I can do it with some help and hard work, I believe that anyone can.
What do you suggest for people who have trouble understanding math? What can they do?
Talk to your professor! Faculty members at Behrend are very happy and willing to help students who need it. There is also FREE math tutoring available to the students.
Favorite math joke?
This is so hard, because there are so many.
Q: What did one math book say to the other?
A: Don’t bother me I’ve got my own problems!
What do you like to do in your free time?
I enjoy spending time with my wife and two wonderful boys, Gabriel and Addison. My oldest son Gabriel, at the age of 5, is even showing promising signs of being a mathematician. On an almost daily basis, he tests the hypothesis that my patience is infinite.
OK…let’s talk about the good stuff. What kinds of pie are you going to be giving away?
We have both apple and pumpkin pie from Wegmans.