Yes You Need to Know This and You Will Use it in the Future

Pi Day is here once again. Pi, for those who have been out of school for a while , is used in Mathematical equations and is often abbreviated as 3.14 ,when doing calculations. As a result, March 14th is often referred to as Pi Day for those wishing to celebrate their Mathematical holiday.

Pi Day can be celebrated more accurately by holding events at close to 2pm, or specifically at 1:59 to further show off a few more of the digits of Pi. Since Pi is an irrational number, the decimals go on forever. Ken Grant—from Delaware—has been known to host Pi Day events at scientific meetings that happen to fall on Pi Day, such as at a recent Pittcon. Ken and his fellow ichromatography allies hosted Pi trivia and gave out several Pi related items, such as Pi coffee mugs, a Pi shower curtain which lists a few hundred digits of Pi, a Pi clock, and of course a Pi pie cutter. These events tend to draw a crowd and many people actively look to win these prizes.

 

In local news, the Plattekill Library hosted an event on March 10th for elementary school aged children that was part Science and part Math. You could say it was a Warm Up to Pi Day. One of the activities used Pi to calculate the circumference of the students. A tape measure was used to measure the students length and width at chest level and those numbers were averaged together and then multiplied by Pi to estimate their circumference. Then their circumference was measured using the tape measure and the two results were compared. For most students, the results were within an inch or two. Not too bad, since people are not perfectly round. It was also a great chance to introduce the elementary school kids to math equations.

Pitticon 2014

Another activity at the library was introducing the students to the metric system related to weights. The students each had a chance to weigh themselves on a scale in pounds and convert their weight into kilograms using a calculator. Most of the students were not familiar with metric units. The dozen attendees each received handouts related to Pi trivia and metric conversion charts to take home.

Local Engineers also have been getting into the K-12 math world. For the last few years, in the fall a group of Engineers from the Mid Hudson branch of the American Society of Civil Engineering volunteer to take over the Math classes of Cornwall High School for a day. Their primary goal is to show the students career options involving various branches of Engineering. This past October, the Cornwall High School students were able to see examples of Chemical Engineering which included a few Chemistry demos in addition to a discussion of careers in the field. Other classes were able to learn about road and traffic design while others were able to learn about how distances were measured in the field by using some of the equipment used by surveyors in their classroom.

 

The goal of the Engineering project is to introduce the students to the different aspects of Engineering and possibly show the students why a career in Engineering is something they can accomplish. Over the last few years, several students have graduated and went on to pursue an Engineering degree in college and stated that the impact of the E-Day in their Math class was a part of what helped them to decide to do so.

We looked around to see what professionals had to say about Pi Day and Math in general.

When asked about Math's Relevance to the World Around Us, Analytical Chemist from Detroit Megan Klein responded” We all use math on a daily basis, even when thinking about how much gas prices have changed from one day to the next. We want to understand the world around us. Philosophers like Plato and Aristotle incorporated math to challenge and prove their logic. Early scientists were also philosophers and mathematicians. The foundation for many advances in science and technology have been built on the math used to make sense of it all.”

Recent graduate Justin Roberts has his own views on math. He states”Math is hidden in everything we do and in nature. It’s how we find patterns and make predictions, and is the basis for just about any technological design – from the torque it takes to turn a can opener, to the complex mathematics-based logic behind your laptop. As our society becomes more and more advanced, the importance of math is becoming readily apparent. The level of mathematical thinking and problem solving required in fields ranging from graphic art to health care is at an all time high. The era of the solemn scientist and mathematician is coming to an end, and we all need to gain a certain appreciation for this ancient art for our society to progress.”

George Ruger with Platekill Library Attendees
Science blogger Adrienne Roehrich gets into the subject a little deeper. She states” I recently gave a career talk to high school students where I emphasized the need to take all the science and math they can in high school and college to succeed in a science major and career. Math can be hard and boring. Like music and art, it requires patience and practice. It is useful not only in the sciences, but also in art and even in life. I think more and more people are realizing that, what with the growing popularity of Pi Day and it's counter-movement Tau Day.

Of course not everyone is as enthusiastic about the subject. At a local social gathering in New Paltz this week, one individual claimed she earned two Master’s degrees, and planned them around being able to take the least amount of Math possible.

Submission by our resident mad scientist: George Ruger of Palladium Science Academy