Pi Day: Great for math and tastebuds

Pi Day gives math fans a chance to celebrate the popular ratio, and foodies the chance to make a play on words and bake their favorite pies. When your family celebrates both, its the perfect equation for fun.

Lisa Suhay
Quin Suhay shows off a Pi Pie created at home in Norfolk, Va., honor of Pi Day on Friday, March 14.

Friday, March 14th (written numerically in the US as 3/14), is “Pi Day” around the world. For parents, this day is about more than just the Greek letter “π”, but also a chance to help kids feel a connection to mathematics, via food and fun.

While Pi isn’t the kind of pie you eat, making pies has become as much a piece of Pi Day as the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is approximately 3.14159 and then some.

“There should be no such thing as boring mathematics,” said Edsger Dijkstra, the Dutch computer scientist who received the 1972 Turing Award for fundamental contributions to developing programming languages.

Pi Day is the proof of Dijkstra’s theory.

While some families get all excited about St. Patrick’s Day, in our house it’s all about the pies of Pi Day.

This began when our son Ian, now 18, was about 11 years old and decided to adopt the day as his own quirky answer to the more mainstream holidays which he couldn’t relate to as easily as math.

Back then, the day didn’t have the enormous following it does today.

My kids are a lot like their parents, we are a band of drummers all marching in the same direction with our headphones blaring our own favorite tunes.

Then my son Avery, 15, took up the Pi cause by finding the “Pi Song” which will be blaring all through the baking and eating before and during Pi Day.

This is one reason we all liked the film the movie “Life of Pi,” wherein character Piscine Molitor Patel hates his first name being mocked by schoolmates and decides to reinvent himself by shortening his name to “Pi” and then sealing the deal by reciting the irrational number to an amazing extent.

Challenging each other to recite Pi to as many digits as possible is a “thing” in our house.

According to the Pi Day website www.piday.org, “Pi has been calculated to over one trillion digits beyond its decimal point. As an irrational and transcendental number, it will continue infinitely without repetition or pattern. While only a handful of digits are needed for typical calculations, Pi’s infinite nature makes it a fun challenge to memorize, and to computationally calculate more and more digits.”

I love that Pi also gets kids into the kitchen where they can let their creative side meet their math minds in creative combat. Cooking and baking are naturals for math lovers because there is so much math and measurement involved.

Also, since we are a family of six that often grows exponentially due to friends eating at our house, recipes often have to be doubled or tripled.

Since we just learned that Friday is also: National Potato Chip Day and National Children’s Craft Day my son Quin, age 10, and I have set ourselves the challenge of crafting a potato chip chocolate Pi Pie

Our son Ian, 18, wears his “Pi in the sky” T-shirt year-round and will be helping with the baking, as will son Avery, 15, who needs pies to take to school as part of an assignment for his math class Friday. 

As a final touch, there is the Pi symbol and the numbers that are placed the top of the pies. This year we’re thinking about cutting the symbol and numbers out of pie crust to add to the top.

In previous years, we wrote them in icing on giant cookies made on a pizza stone and cut like a pizza cookie pie.

This year we are also considering making Pi both dinner and dessert by using the pizza stone to make pizza pies with the Pi symbol in pepperoni.

When it comes to making kids comfortable with math, it’s best to help them make a meal of it.

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