Mathematics Department Hosts Pie-themed Party to celebrate Pi Day

Written by: 
Josh Mason

The BYU-Hawaii Mathematics Department gave out free pizza and pies to celebrate Pi Day and promote the Math Learning Center at 2:30pm on Monday, March 14 in the General Classroom Building.

John Frey, a senior from Florida studying physics education and math tutor at the center, said the Mathematics Department has a Pi Day party every year on March 14 since the digits for the number pi are 3.14. Dr. Russel Carlson, assistant professor of mathematics, said this year’s Pi Day is “Rounded Pi Day” because when the number is rounded to the fourth decimal place, it equals 3.1416.

According to Frey, the department wanted to take advantage of the unique date to promote the Math Learning Center. Also known as the Math Lab, the center has its own computer lab where students can receive help from tutors with their math homework.

Even though the party is done every year, Frey said, “It was kind of a bigger deal for us this semester because it was happening after the first week of school as opposed to near the end of the semester.”

Frey said the tutors wanted to show their fun side. He said, “We just wanted to say, ‘Hey, we’re tutors, we’re fun, we like to party, and we’re friendly people.’ We’re trying to put a little more fun in math because without something like a math lab, math is such a pain for people.”

After serving free pizza and pie, Dr. Carlson gave a presentation about the history of the number pi. “The earliest record we have of it dates back to 2000 BC. There was an old, Egyptian papyrus known as the Rhind Papyrus. It has an approximation of pi: 16 divided by 9 quantity squared,” said Carlson.

Carlson said the idea of the number pi is also found in the Bible. He said, “When King Solomon was building his temple, there are all of these descriptions and dimensions. For the molten basin in 1 Kings 7:23, it says it was 10 cubits across and 30 cubits round about. That ratio - 30 divided by 10 - is three, an approximation of pi.”

Fascinated by the progress humans have made, Carlson said, “Currently we know over five trillion digits of pi thanks to computers. I have a file with the first million digits, but there’s no way I’d save a file with all five trillion.”

After Dr. Carlson’s presentation, students and math faculty competed in a competition to see who could solve a rubix cube the fastest. Then, students and faculty participated in a competition to see who could write the most amount of digits of pi. Carlson won, writing 40 digits after the decimal.

Students then competed in a pie-eating contest where they had to clear a plate of whipped cream. DonEliezer Baize, a sophomore from Kahuku studying mathematics and a math lab tutor, won the contest and received a free apple pie as his prize.

Baize said he was happy with how the activity turned out. “Students love food, so we figured we gotta hook up those college students with some free pie. We threw in pizza, making it a solid homerun.”

Frey said, “People dread math, so it’s not only our job to help them with their homework, but to relieve their stress. Activities like this are perfect excuses to have fun, and we don’t get those too often.”

The Math Lab is located in GCB 177. For information on hours and resources, visit math.byuh.edu/mathlab.