– Students were excited to get irrational at the second annual Pi Day Celebration last Thursday.
PHOTO: UMSL Math Club celebrated Pi Day in the MSC Pilot House March 14. Photo by Heather Welborn for The Current ©

 

By Heather Welborn, Staff Writer for The Current

Jesse Bleile (in orange) and other members of the UMSL Math Club celebrate Pi Day in the MSC Pilot House. Photo by Heather Welborn for The Current ©

Students were excited to get irrational at the second annual Pi Day Celebration last Thursday. The event was hosted by the Math Club in the Pilot House of the Millennium Student Center. The annual algebraic observation of March 14, or 3.14, has become popular in high schools and on social media websites over the years. The event gave students an opportunity to indulge in free snacks and have fun while engaging in pi-themed activities for prizes.

Pi is one of the most-used mathematical constants. Defined as the relationship between diameter and circumference, pi has been used for centuries in calculations involving circles. This ratio, roughly 22/7, will never change, even as the size of the circle shrinks and expands. Because pi is irrational, the number of decimal digits is infinite and continues without any pattern or repeats. To date, pi has been calculated to over 1 trillion decimal digits.

Pie-like snacks were provided for participants, as well as orange T-shirts bearing an equation that translates phonetically to “I ate some pie.” Students were encouraged to sign up for Math Club as they snacked, while others tried to win gift cards to Subway and the University of Missouri-St. Louis Bookstore by playing math-themed games. In one challenge, students guessed how much candy was inside a glass container, the answer being a triplet found within pi’s decimal code. In another, students signed strips of colored paper symbolizing the next digit in pi, forming a chain for display on the MSC Bridge.

The pi recitation contest was the main event. Students tried their best to recall as many decimal digits of pi as possible for prizes like a Kindle Paperwhite and a Galaxy Tab 2. Last year’s winner correctly remembered nearly 250 decimal digits. His prizes were a coffee mug, a movie and a book. The improvement in rewards has to do with the Math Club’s official status this year. They won the award for best new organization last year, and now that the funding is available, they decided to forward it to fellow students.

The turnout was larger than one would expect for a math event, with friendly and enthusiastic club members readily assisting curious students as they passed.

Jessica Bleile, senior, mathematics, president of the Math Club, organized Pi Day last year. She stresses that students of any major can join the math club, which meets two to three times over the semester, mainly to plan events and raise awareness of math-related concepts on campus. The events they sponsor offer opportunities for fun and community within the student body on campus.

Jonas Kersulis, senior, electrical engineering, treasurer of Math Club, calls math “high impact stuff” and reminds students that regardless of your discipline, math affects you directly and on a daily basis. He notes that there is applicable as well as philosophical value to pi, from engineering concepts to musing about an endless number calculating an endless shape. The Math Club also reminds Current readers of the Problem of the Month, still in each issue, with Subway gift cards awarded to correct answers submitted in time.

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