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What is Pi Day and its Significance?

By: Nikki Frankel

A lowercase letter in the Greek alphabet,  π, has become one of the most well known mathematical constants around the world. This constant is known as pi, which is ironic as it is such a short name for a never ending number. Typing pi into a calculator will result in the number 3.141592654 or 22/7, there is no repeating pattern and no end. 

People believed that this constant is so important that in 1988, pi day became a holiday established by Larry Shaw. This holiday is on March 14 because of the first three digits of pi, 3.14, while it also happens to be Albert Einstein’s birthday. The first Pi Day event featured a circular parade and the consumption of fruit pies and was held at the Exploratorium (Shaw’s workplace), an interactive science museum in San Francisco. But it wasn’t until 2009 that the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation making it a recognized federal holiday. On this day, math lovers come together to eat pie, challenge each other on the digits of pi, and celebrate math in general. Through teaching, museum exhibitions, pie-eating contests, and other activities, mathematicians, scientists, and teachers hope that the holiday will help raise interest in math and science across the globe. Over 50 trillion trillion digits beyond its decimal point have been used to calculate pi. It will go on forever without repetition or pattern because it is an irrational and transcendental number. While most computations only require a few digits, pi’s infinite nature makes it a pleasant challenge to memorize and computationally calculate ever-increasing numbers.