Another Year, Another Pi Day

by rahmoeller on March 15, 2019

Whew! What a week! Not only was it the week right after Spring Break (which is always a tough week), but it also happened to be a very busy mathematical week! Thursday, March 14 was Pi Day! Pi, a mathematical constant, was originally defined as the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, i.e. circumference = 2π*radius = π*diameter. Did you know that we use the symbol π for pi because it is the first letter of the Greek word for perimeter (or circumference)?

Have you ever heard of a guy named Lawrence (Larry) Shaw? He was an American physicist, among other things, but most importantly for this post, he invented Pi Day back in 1988. Why did he pick March 14? Well, we typically approximate π to 3.14, and so logically one might think, 3 represents the month and 14 the day.

But, there are other dates that could work well for Pi Day: April 5, say. Why? Well, since we begin our year with January, when 3 months have actually passed, we are at April 1. But 14% of April turns out to roughly 4.34 days, which means that by April 5, 3.14 months of the year have gone by. Another possible date could be to choose the 314th day of the year: November 10. In fact, why not celebrate all 3? Heck, someone come up with another day to celebrate π: I’m in!!

How did Roanoke College celebrate Pi Day this year? On Wednesday, March 13, some faculty, several students, and our amazing RC baker baked a total of 58 pies (26 apple, 32 pumpkin), all of which were donated to the Salem Food Pantry.

Then, on Pi Day, we calculated the results of our jar fundraiser. For about 3.14 weeks, we collected donations for the West End Center into jars, which were associated with both math and chemistry professors.

The professor (Dr. Skip Brenzovich, chemistry) whose jar had the LEAST money ($12.42) was pied:

If only you could see Skip’s expression underneath that pie…

And the professor (Dr. Richard Keithley) whose jar had the MOST money ($92.01) was pied:

Call from crowd: “Dr. Keithley, you have some hair in your pie…”

We raised a total of $315.83 this year!! Thanks to all who donated to the West End Center!

We already are counting down the days until Pi Day comes around again…so, April 5 anyone??


Special thanks to the Salem Kroger for a generous gift card donation; to Lavelle Glenn who baked the pies to perfection in the scary ovens; to faculty members Hiba, Bonnie, and Claire for their efficient work in peeling 40 lbs of apples; and to RC students Ricky, Andrew, Anna, Sara, Sophie, Lydia, Gavin, Sam, Gideon, Abbi, Robert, and Cody – all y’all did all the hard work and are absolutely incredible!!!