Ghana’s only school with dual Cambridge and American curricula, Dominion Christian Academy International, celebrated International Mathematics Day in style this year. The school, which also offers Singaporean Mathematics, has urged parents and students to prioritize the study of mathematics.
Dubbed Pi Day, March 14 is celebrated globally as an International Day of Mathematics in honor of Pi (π). The occasion is geared towards commemorating and reflecting on the history, emerging themes, and importance of mathematics studies.
As part of activities to commemorate the day, Mr. Samuel Frassrand Asomani, a member of staff in the school’s Mathematics department, has shared some interesting facts about the history, importance, and practical demonstration of Pi (π) in real life, as follows:
History and Important of Pi–π
Pi has been recognized for at least 4,000 years, according to A History of Pi. As far back as 2000 B.C., the Babylonians and Egyptians were aware of the existence and significance of the constant π, recognizing that every circle has the same ratio of circumference to diameter. Rough numerical approximations to the value of pi were developed by both civilizations, and later ancient Greek mathematicians like Archimedes improved on those approximations. By the start of the 20th century, about 500 digits of pi were known, but with computational advances thanks to computers, we now know more than the first six billion digits of Pi.
Startling Facts About Pi Day
Pi, written as the Greek letter π, is a constant value that represents the ratio of the circumference of any circle to its diameter. Regardless of a circle’s size, this ratio will always equal pi. While the decimal form of pi is approximately 3.14, it’s actually an irrational number, meaning that its decimal form neither ends nor repeats. (Pi can be calculated to 18 decimal places as 3.141592653589793238.) To make calculations easier, the Greek letter π was first used by William Jones in 1706 as shorthand for this ratio of circumference to diameter. The notation later became standard mathematical notation about 30 years later, according to Petr Beckmann’s A History of Pi.
Experimenting Pi in real life
Experimenting with Pi in real life is easy! Using a compass, draw a circle and place a piece of string on top of the circle, exactly once around. Straighten out the string and measure its length, which is called the circumference of the circle. Measure the diameter of the circle, which is the length from any point on the circle straight through its center to another point on the opposite side. (The diameter is twice the radius, the length from any point on the circle to its center.) Divide the circumference by the diameter, and you’ll get approximately 3.14—no matter what size circle you drew! A larger circle will have a larger circumference and a larger radius, but the ratio will always be the same. If you cut several pieces of string equal in length to the diameter, you’ll need a little more than three of them to cover the circumference of the circle. This ratio of circumference to diameter is pi!
But pi isn’t just useful for circles. It also connects the diameter or radius of a circle with the area of that circle by the formula: the area is equal to pi times the radius squared. Amazingly, pi also shows up unexpectedly in many mathematical situations. For example, the sum of the infinite series 1 + 1/4 + 1/9 + 1/16 + 1/25 + … + 1/n2 + … is equal to π2/6.
Writer is a Staff Member with the Mathematics department of Dominion Christian Academy International in Spintex, Accra.