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Math Maestro Geeks Out on Pi Day

University of Delaware Professor Sebastian Cioaba

Professor Sebastian Cioaba explains how the Greek mathematician Archimedes calculated an accurate estimation of pi.

Credit: Kathy F. Atkinson

Sebastian Cioaba, a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Delaware, had never heard of Pi Day until he came to Canada as a graduate student. Now he sees it as a way to get students excited about math.

In celebration of pi, 3.14, the most famous mathematical constant, people eat pie and memorize digits on Pi Day, March 14, or 3/14. Pi Day was started in 1988 by Larry Shaw, a physicist who worked at a San Francisco museum. In 2019, UNESCO proclaimed March 14 as the International Day of Mathematics.

"I think any attention to math is great," Cioaba says. "When people think about pi, the fixation is so much on the digits — how many you can memorize. That's fine, and it gets kids interested in it."

"I liked math because I had really good teachers, and I wanted to learn on my own as well," Cioaba says. "A lot of people have the opposite experience — they had an open mind and then something happened that kind of shut the door in their face, and then they don't have the confidence to open it by themselves. They need help to open it, and that's what we have to provide to young people. So whatever we do — you know, Pi Day, whatever — I'm all for it if it gets people excited about math."

From University of Delaware
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