What is Pi?

What is Pi?

Hey there kids, my name is Pi

pi

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m the irrational, never-ending number guy

You might see me written as 3.14

But, in fact, I’m really so much more

I’m the ratio of a circle’s circumference to diameter

But, please don’t define me just by that parameter

No matter the size of your circled design

I’m always the same number, you’ll find

But what IS that number?

Well, that’s hard to say

Because it goes on forever!

You’d write more every day!

I have so many digits after 3.14

You could write on for years and still get many more

You could write 3.141592653589793238

But, you’d still have more to calculate!

So, think of me more as a circular friend

Whose friendship really has no end.

 

Pi in the Sky

Pi day is coming and I am excited. Math is rarely assigned its own holidays, so the idea of spending an entire 24 hours hailing the art and mystery of pi is certainly cause for celebration.

Yes, on March 14, which is pi rounded to the three first digits – 3.14, millions of little boys and girls will demonstrate their mathematical prowess by loudly proclaiming memorized speeches of pi calculations to the umpteenth digit. As in 3.14159265358979…etc, etc.

But are number recitals the best way to celebrate what pi is all about? Is the discussion of digits doing it justice?

Just what is so great about pi, anyway?

Take a Slice of Pi

Pi is defined as the ratio of a circumference of a circle to its diameter, no matter the circle’s size. It’s an easy concept to comprehend and observe – measurable with a piece of string – but a difficult one to calculate. In fact, it’s a never-ending irrational number – which means its exact value is pretty much unknowable. Although you could spend years of your life continuing to calculate pi to the next digit, you’d expire before discerning a pattern or an end. It goes on forever.

As such, there is a romantic relationship between pi and the infinite, although ancient mathematicians found the concept of irrational numbers an affront to the idea of divine omniscience. How could something be inherently unknowable – even to the almighty?

The Nature of Pi

Pi is logically tied to circles, but also relates to the cycles of nature. Pi appears as part of the Fourier series in mathematics, which represents periodic and wave-like oscillating functions. It’s the foundation of the physics that describes waves and ripples of light and sound.

Pi is also linked to the meandering ratio of a river, or the ratio of a river’s length to its source. Although that number varies depending on the direction and curves of a river, the average meandering ratio comes close to pi.

Pi was an essential element of NASA spacecraft trajectory calculations, as evidenced by the recent movie, “Hidden Figures.” Without it, perhaps John Glenn’s miraculous orbit would have fallen short of its objective.

It can also be found in Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, which examines the characteristics of sub-atomic particles, thus revealing pi’s importance in understanding the very nature of the universe.

Can you understand why pi is such a fascinating concept and worthy of so much more than digital regurgitation? Let’s think of new ways to celebrate it – what do you think?

Visit the shop to purchase my plush “Pi” figure for children and other pi products!

Watch my videos to learn more about pi!

What Are Roman Numerals?

Hey there kids – it’s number 2!

number2Have I got an interesting topic for you!

You’ve met numbers 1 through 9
Let’s learn about different ones this time!

Roman numerals are good to know
They were used to express value a long time ago

Instead of writing 1,2, 3
Try the Roman way with I, II, III – see?

Roman numerals are used today
On some clocks, in books and plays

But what’s so cool about when you use ‘em
Is how hard it is to really confuse ‘em

Let’s take a Roman numeral tour
And learn to write 1, 2, 3, and 4

I, II, III are easy to see
But, 4 is IV– how can that be?

Because 4 is one less than 5, we show
IV which is “I” less than 5 or “V,” Oh!

Roman numerals use “I” after or before
To show one less or even one more

VI is 6 and VII is 7, then
VIII is8, IX is 9 -one less than “X” (or 10!)

Roman numerals are a great way to learn
A new way of viewing numbers – now it’s your turn!

Talk to your teacher or mom or dad,
About using Roman numerals to subtract or add.

 

Can You Count the Continents?

Hi there kids, number 7 here!
I’ve traveled back from far to near

Around the world through land and seaseven
Each country, an interesting place to be

And because I know you love to count
I’ll ask if you know the continent amount

A continent’s a piece of land
From outer space, each one looks grand

They cover the earth and fill each big gap
I’m sure you’ve seen them on a map

Do you know how many there might be?
If you’re not sure, count them all with me!

Africa, Asia, Australia, North America,
Antarctica, Europe, South America

That makes seven – can you see why
People call me the Continent Guy?

 

Continent Discontent

Here’s a question you probably think you know the answer to:

How many continents are there on the planet earth?

For generations of Americans, the answer is simple: seven. The list of continents includes Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Europe, Australia and Antarctica.

But, before you assume this blog post is done, consider this: Some geographers disagree with that number, and instead choose to count Europe and Asia as one mass of land labeled Eurasia.  And, in other parts of the world, children are taught there are only five continents: Eurasia, Australia, Africa, Antarctica and the Americas.

To confuse you even further, researchers recently made the argument that a large mass of land completely submerged under water – and part of New Zealand – qualifies as a continent and should be recognized as such.

All this continent discontent might make you want to throw your geography book out the window, but it certainly shines a spotlight on the question, “what counts as a continent?”

Exactly What IS a Continent?

Good question.

Although one accepted characterization of a continent maintains it is a large, continuous mass of land, bigger than an island and separated on all sides by water, that classification is somewhat arbitrary, which is why Greenland is considered an island, but Australia – only a couple more million km in size – is considered a continent.

In fact, by that definition, many purists believe there are only four continents – since Europe and Asia are part of one land mass, Asia and Africa are joined by an isthmus, as are the two Americas – which would just leave Australia and Antarctica.

The reason much of the world can’t agree is that there is no one definition of what makes up a continent. Some accepted factors beyond the physical attributes include distinctive flora and fauna, cultural uniqueness – and even local agreement on continental status, which I suppose means that if you believe it, it’s so!

Too Much on Your Plate

As a math-minded person, I find it difficult to define physical structures by cultural differences, so as a last resort –what about how continents relate to the tectonic plates beneath them? Surely, there must be an alignment there.

Tectonic plates are the earth’s rocky outer crust and they continue to drift, ever so slowly, across the surface of the globe. This accepted theory of continental drift explains Pangea – one super continent that began breaking up 175 million years ago into the modern configuration of continents we know today.

But, if we look at the location of the continents over these plates, we’ll realize that while Europe and Asia mostly share one plate, the Americas are separated and the country of India shares a plate with Australia. Greenland and the Philippines each have their own plates – although neither is defined as a continent today.

The only concept that becomes clear here is that depending where you are, who you are and WHEN you were – you may have a very different opinion on the total of continents.  And, here we thought numbers was a definitive subject!

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