All Hail Pi (π)

By Sean Cavanagh — March 12, 2009 1 min read

Apparently bowing to intense pressure from the all-powerful mathematicians’ lobby, Capitol Hill lawmakers have approved House Resolution No. 224, calling for March 14 to be recognized as “National Pi Day.”

Kidding aside, the chief sponsor of the resolution, Rep. Bart Gordon, a Tennessee Democrat who chairs the House Committee on Science and Technology, and other lawmakers have a serious intent.

Teachers around the country can plan math lessons and events around March 14 to celebrate Pi, or "π,” which is the relationship between the diameter of a circle (its width) and its circumference (the distance around the circle). But I’m completely confident that you knew that already.

Gordon sees the resolution as a chance for schools to emphasize the importance of math and science, at a time when there’s widespread worry about U.S. students’ performance in those subjects.

“This is a lighthearted event but the goals are serious,” Gordon said in a statement. “By engaging students in math and science activities from a young age, we are setting our students on a path toward science and math literacy and careers.”

On a side note, you have to love arch, ultra-formal language of congressional resolutions, especially when they’re focused on a topic as quirky as Pi.

“Whereas mathematics and science can be a fun and interesting part of a child’s education, and learning about Pi can be an engaging way to teach children about geometry and attract them to study science and mathematics; and

Whereas Pi can be approximated as 3.14, and thus March 14, 2009, is an appropriate day for `National Pi Day': Now, therefore, be it resolved....”

For teachers interested in crafting math lessons around this math-themed day, check out this web site, sponsored by a group that’s also looking to promote the magnificence of Pi.

UPDATE: The final vote was 391-10, according to this tally. Ten holdouts apparently opposed to paying righteous tribute to Pi.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.