Science & Technology

Pi — It’s Waaaay More Than You Think!

By Elyas Layachi

Volume 2 Issue 5

March 28, 2022

Pi — It’s Waaaay More Than You Think!

Image provided by New Atlas

Introduction

March 14th of every year is the date all mathematicians and math-lovers yearn for: Pi Day. Its name comes from the number its date creates: 3.14, the first three digits of the mathematical constant pi. It’s an endless number, and while we use pi in our math classes, do we really know what the number is, its origin, and its uses in the real world? After reading this article, you will know everything there is to love about pi, in addition to a few fun facts!

Brief History of Pi

British mathematician William Jones is responsible for giving the value pi a Greek symbol, but the actual number comes from centuries of secular thought and experimentation. According to exploratorium.edu, the number has been around for almost 4000 years, with the ancient Babylonians (1900 – 1680 BC) being the first to try to find pi’s value. They calculate the area of a circle by taking three times the square of its radius, which gave pi a value of 3, but they approximated it to 3.125. In the same period, the ancient Egyptians found the area of a circle using a formula and produced 3.1605 for their pi value. However, it wasn’t until Archimedes of Syracuse that pi was accurately calculated. He was one of the greatest mathematicians of the ancient world, and, simply put, he used the Pythagorean Theorem (a^2 + b^2 = c^2) to find the area of a circle and the value of pi. Although he did not find the exact value of pi, he knew he was close, and produced a value between 3 and 1/7th and 3 and 10/71. Today, Syracuse is known as the creator of pi.

Pi Uses Today

What an interesting history! It’s crazy to think that it took the world’s most renowned mathematicians and minds, along with centuries of thought, to produce merely an approximation of the real value of pi. You may ask, what’s the importance of all this? I’m never going to need pi in my life, so why is it such an important number? Well, depending on what profession you’re thinking of pursuing, you will most likely need pi. Astronomers need pi for estimating the sizes of planets, architects and construction workers need pi to design buildings, pi was used to calculate the size of your car wheels, and even plumbers need pi form piping and tubing! Furthermore, sports manufacturers need pi to determine the amount of material needed to make a basketball or soccer ball. Anything that involves circles, cones, spheres, and cylinders needs pi.

Fun Facts about Pi


  • Pi is the most recognized mathematical constant in the world, with scholars considering it “the most important and intriguing number in all of mathematics.”1

  • Since the exact value of pi can never be calculated, we can never find the accurate area or circumference of a circle.2

  • Since pi is an irrational value, computers have been used to calculate it to more than 22 trillion digits!3

Conclusion I hope you guys learned something new about pi! I sure did, just from doing research for this article! So the next time you see pi on a math test or in class, take a second to appreciate the value of the number, the centuries it took for its value to be discovered, and its many uses in society. Happy Pi Day!