Pi Day equals never-ending fun in Metro Detroit
Detroit — Humble pi was definitely not on the menu Tuesday.
In fact, the 16th letter of the Greek alphabet and the mathematical symbol was celebrated proudly across Metro Detroit and beyond.
Pi, the never-ending number used to figure out the size of circles, approximately equals 3.14159. Math mavens around the world pay tribute to it every year on March 14, or 3/14. Metro Detroit schools and pie-making companies marked the day with pi-themed events and free pastry, too.
“Pi Day has become a big deal,” said Riley McLincha, 66, of Clio, who held the Guinness World Record in 1977 for being able to recite pi to 7,500 decimal places. “When I held that record, there was no such thing as Pi Day.”
He said teachers started to contact him about visiting their classrooms on Pi Day about 15 years ago and he still gets requests for appearances.
“I like it,” he said. “I get more notoriety now than I did in the ’70s.”
In Detroit, Wayne Raskind, dean of Wayne State’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, went head to head with Dan Isaksen, associate chairman of the university’s Mathematics Departments, in a pi-off Tuesday. The winner of the contest was whoever could recite the most digits of the irrational and transcendental number.
“Pi Day is an obvious day to showcase math,” said Raskind, a renowned mathematician who could recite from memory the first 1,220 digits of pi at the age of 14. “With the increased emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), I’d say the M is MMMMM good. It’s put math more on the forefront.”
His challenger agreed.
“From a mathematician’s perspective, this is a good excuse to do some mathematics awareness, outreach to the community to talk about how mathematics is interesting, fascinating and how it’s relevant, useful and applicable,” Isaksen said. “It’s a convenient day of the year to celebrate mathematics.”
Raskind beat out Isaksen by reciting Pi to nearly 190 digits. Isaksen recited about 100 digits.
Raskind and Isaksen’s competition was part of the university’s inaugural STEM Day.
WSU’s Liberal Arts and Sciences, Education and Engineering colleges invited about 1,000 middle school students from across Metro Detroit to the university to participate in hands-on interactive sessions covering a variety of STEM studies. Students were also given a tour of the university.
“STEM Day and Pi Day go hand in hand,” said Julie Hasse, Wayne State’s manager of student outreach and content strategy. “We wanted to do something a little bit different for the students.”
She also said the hope is to hold a pi-themed event every year.
After the dust settled after Raskind and Isaksen’s cerebral battle, students were treated to a piece of pie, courtesy of the Grand Traverse Pie Co.
“We are thrilled to be celebrating Pi (Day) and pie with the Michigan State University and WSU students and faculty this year,” said Mike Busley, co-founder of the Grand Traverse Pie Co., in a statement. “Pi Day is special as it ties in education while creating pie memories with a bonus of helping others in the process. That’s the power of pie and pi together.”
Also Tuesday, MBA students at MSU teamed up with the piemaker to raise money for the Small Talk Children’s Assessment Center, which provides abuse counseling and advocacy services for children in Lansing.
Malow Junior High School student Hannah Blank, 14, of Shelby Township said she enjoyed Wayne State’s STEM Day a lot.
“It was so cool,” she said. “I got to see other kinds of sciences. I’m more into biology, but I got to see a chem lab and genetics.”
She said the pi-off was cool, too.
“I can only recite Pi to 3.14,” Blank said.