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Easy as pi

As early as 2000 B.C., Babylonians discovered the curious relationship between the circumference and diameter of a circle.

Today, mathematicians are still trying to uncover all the numbers in pi. Estimates hover around 200 billion digits.

“In the last 10 years, we have made leaps and bounds with relation to pi, thanks to computers,” said Ridgetop Junior High math teacher Veronica Perra.

To make the unusual ratio more accessible to students, Perra declared Wednesday, March 14, pi day because of the date’s correlation to the first three digits of pi — 3.14.

Perra said she got the idea while student-teaching at Olympic High School.

“It’s just a fun way to get kids involved with math,” said Perra, now in her second year of teaching math.

On Wednesday, Perra’s students covered the mathematical aspects of pi. Her students measured 10 round objects of all sizes — plates, cans and glue sticks, among others — and divided the circumference by the diameter. They learned that despite the varying sizes of the circles, pi remains constant.

On March 14, students ate several varieties of pie, sang pi songs and learned the history of the ratio’s discovery.

They also competed for who could memorize the most digits of pi.

“I memorized them in units of four,” said Megan Aitchison, the seventh grader who won the contest in Perra’s third-period class. “It’s easier to memorize them in groups of four. My mom said that’s why they do telephone numbers like that.”

By the end of the day, one student recited all 150 numbers on the abbreviated list from memory, Perra said.

Teaching math can be challenging because a stigma attached to the subject, Perra said. She spends a lot of time convincing students that math is interesting, and they have the ability learn it.

An educational activity like pi day goes a long way toward getting students excited about math, Perra said.

“I hope they learn the relationship between circumference and diameter, and that they never forget,” Perra said. “I hope they take away that math is an amazing subject.”

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