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Wednesday, January 16 , 2019, 4:57 pm | Overcast 60º


Santa Barbara Montessori School Celebrating Pi with Pie

Thursday will take on special meaning for children at Santa Barbara Montessori School with their “timely” celebration of the date’s digits.

“We’re going to celebrate pi with pies and digits!” Head of School Jim Fitzpatrick said. “March 14 in digits is 3-14, the first three digits of pi — 3.14. Each year we acknowledge the coincidence, but this year our celebration is going to be a bit more flavorful.

“Our geometry and math lessons explain that pi, the decimal number 3.14, represents the ratio of diameters to the length of a circle’s circumference. With the younger children in the lower elementary class we sometimes say, ‘Pi is three and a little bit.’ With the older children we get more specific with the traditional value of 3.14, and in the junior high class we explain that as a mathematical constant pi is often referred to as an irrational number. So, those older students have begun to use pi calculated to 10 or even 25 digits. 3.141592653589793238 is what we used last week with the eighth- and ninth-graders.”

Math and geometry aside, Thursday’s Pi Day Celebration at SBMS will also include home-baked pies, pie recipes and some pie sampling, too. Once the pies are consumed, after lunch, the school’s junior high students are slated to compete in the official “Pi Contest.” The student who can recite the most digits of pi will win — what else — a pie.

“There are those who can recite pi to hundreds of digits, with the world record now at 100,000 digits. We have students who have gone beyond 25 digits, so we’ll see how they do in the pressure of the contest,” Fitzpatrick said. “PI Day recitations seem to be gaining in popularity, with many people acknowledging the first formal celebration began at the Exploratorium in San Francisco 25 years ago.

“The typical format is for each individual pi contestant to begin reciting from memory until they make a mistake or decide to stop — once you begin you can’t stop and start again to fix a mistake, it’s all in one take, start to finish. The contestant who remembers the most digits correctly is the winner. Last week one of our students, Dario Bucy, made it past 25 digits, so we’ll see how well he does on Thursday.”

Montessori geometry materials include various insets and geometric shapes that can be measured to for the calculation of area. One of the classroom activities is to measure the circumference of a variety of different sized circles. Once the circumferences have been calculated, the value of pi is easy to recognize as being a bit more than three diameters.

“There are going to be Pi Day celebrations at many Montessori schools throughout the U.S., but any school or any classroom can have their own Pi Day celebration,” Fitzpatrick said. “I mean, any time you can have pies be part of your geometry lesson, that’s a good thing, right?”

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