What is Pi Day? The story of the circle


Circles are some of the most beautiful and versatile shapes in nature.

Every March 14, mathematics enthusiasts from all over the globe commemorate Pi Day and the International Day of Mathematics (IDM).

The day aims to raise awareness about the importance of mathematics and its role in shaping our world, as well as to promote the beauty and relevance of mathematics to a wider audience.

This year’s theme is Mathematics for Everyone. Around the world, more than 1,700 events have been announced to celebrate the day.

What is pi and why is it important?

Pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, which is approximately 3.14.

Pi is one of the most famous symbols in mathematics and has many important applications in physics, engineering and statistics.

While the idea of pi dates back thousands of years, it was only in the early 1700s when the Greek letter for p, or π, was used to represent the mathematical constant.

It is believed that π was chosen as an abbreviation of periphery or perimeter which measures the distance around the outside of the circle, also known as a circle’s circumference.

INTERACTIVE What is pi and why is it important
(Al Jazeera)

Why is Pi Day celebrated on March 14?

March 14 can also be written as 3/14 in the month/day format, which matches the first three digits of the numerical value of pi.

The celebration of Pi Day began on March 14, 1988, at the San Francisco Exploratorium, where physicist Larry Shaw organised a celebration to make mathematics more relatable and fun.

March 14, 1879, also happens to be the birthday of Albert Einstein, one of the most influential scientists of the 20th century.

INTERACTIVE Did you know March 14 is Pi day
(Al Jazeera)

Fun Pi Day activities

On March 14, many events and activities are organised globally to mark the famous symbol.

Some of these activities include:

Memorise all of pi

Competitions are held in mathematics classrooms and online to see who can remember the most digits of pi. In March 2015, Rajveer Meena, a 21-year-old student at VIT University, Vellore, India, set the Guinness World record by memorising 70,000 digits of pi, a remarkable feat that took him nearly 10 hours to recall.

Why don’t you give it a go? Below are the first 100 decimal points of pi. See how many you can learn:

Pi= 3.1415926535897932384626433832795028841971693993751058209749445923078164062862089986280348253421170679…

Make some Pi Day art

If memorising numbers does not sound like your kind of fun then how about getting creative by making some Pi Day art?

On March 14, science and mathematics teachers inspire their students of all ages by organising fun activities, including making Pi Day paper chains, rolling pi digits with dice, playing card games and telling maths jokes.

Celebrate with a pizza party

In another Pi Day tradition, why not treat yourself to some circular-shaped foods? Pizzas, pancakes and pies of all types work well.

One tasty activity to demonstrate pi is to:

  • Grab yourself four pizzas and line them up in a row
  • Cut the crust off of one pizza
  • Lay the crust across the four pizzas
  • You will see that the crust spans a little more than three pizzas
  • How much more? Well, 3.1415 pizzas to be more precise


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