By Dave Quick
Special to Signal Tribune
On March 20, Cabrillo High School celebrated its second annual “Pi Day” with festivities honoring one of mathematics’ most intriguing and storied numbers¬– pi. “If we can have a pep rally for sports, why not a pep rally for math?” said Fred Olmedo, head of Cabrillo’s math department.
Pi is the ratio of the distance across a circle (diameter) to the distance around the circle (circumference). The search for pi has gone on for thousands of years and engaged many different cultures from Babylonia to India to China to the Incas and Aztecs of the Americas. The ratio pi, which starts 3.14159…, goes on endlessly without repeating itself. Supercomputers have carried out pi well past one billion digits.
At Cabrillo, students received a “Pi Day Passport” and during their one-hour math session they could visit up to 14 event stations, each with a pi-themed activity. At the “pi bee” event, aspiring mathematicians could compete to see who can recite the most digits of pi from memory. During the 11am session, the tension was palpable as junior Kris Grant recited 99 digits and then drew a blank, only one digit short of tying that session’s best of 100 digits. Grant regrouped, started over again and worked his way back to the 99th digit. He paused, and then correctly recited “seven” to tie at 100 digits. He next recited “nine!” and he and his classmates jumped for joy as he captured the win with 101 pi digits from memory.
Other Pi Day events at Cabrillo included the opportunity to find by computer the first occurrence of your numeric birthday among the first 200 million digits of pi, graphic renderings of the pi symbol, screening of “Pi Movie,” a number of athletic events involving round items and of course, pizza and apple “pi.”
“Pi Day” has become an annual celebration at Cabrillo High School. In addition to the faculty of the math department, the website www.piacrossamerica.org, a free tutorial for teachers, helps support Cabrillo High School’s “pi day.”