University of Calgary marks Pi Day with pie, pizza
U of C Math professor encourages people to see numbers in the every day
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March 14 holds a special place in the hearts of mathematicians and math fanatics across the world, and on Wednesday, the math department at the University of Calgary will be celebrating the date.
It’s not the anniversary of a big discovery or the birthday of a famous mathematician. Rather, it’s known as pi day because the 14th day of the third month can be written as 3.14 (a.k.a the number pi.)
University of Calgary math professor Michael Lamoureux is using the day to remind people that math isn’t something one has to suffer through in school and then never use again.
“Mathematics is everywhere,” he said. “When you go to the bank and figure out how much interest they’re going to pay you, or how much your mortgage will cost, or even things like how to design a bridge – there’s mathematics all over.”
Lamoureux has had an interest in math all his life. In Grade Six, a teacher promised anyone in the class $1 million if they could solve a difficult math problem.
“I solved it so he wrote me a cheque for a million dollars, but he wouldn’t sign it,” he said with a laugh.
After completing an undergraduate degree at the University of Alberta, Lamoureux went on to study at Stanford University for his grad work and at the University of California, Berkeley for his PhD.
Through it all, he’s been interested in applying math in the real world.
“Even at Stanford I would take a bunch of courses on electrical engineering and superconductors. I liked to see how mathematics was useful there.”
But in Alberta’s oil patch, he found a way to mix math with dynamite in the field of seismic exploration. He and his colleagues are using mathematical methods to get clearer pictures of what’s underneath the ground.
On Wednesday, he’ll be joining students from the math department for a slice of pizza (pie) and possibly some apple pie for dessert.
Graduate student Rachel Hardeman is organizing the Pi Day celebrations. She said students will be taking part in a pie bake off, to see who can make the tastiest treat, and a pi recitation contest to see who can memorize the most digits of the number Pi.
Hardeman said her own interest is in theoretical mathematics.
“I’ve always loved mathematics since I was a kid, and I enjoy teaching as well.”
Lamoureux said he was lucky to have great math teachers throughout his school days, and he said parents who want to instill a love of math in their kids can look to the internet for resources.
He said for teens, the University of Calgary’s math department offers Wednesday night math workshops where students can work on intriguing puzzles beyond the scope of the regular school curriculum.
He said the Pacific Institute for Mathematical Sciences (PIMS) also often holds public lectures at the university which aim to reach a wider audience.
“It’s not meant for experts. It’s just meant for people who have a general interest in math.”
More info can be found at pims.math.ca.