Friday, March 15, 2013

Behaving Irrationally

Yes, it was National Pi Day yesterday.  And, like any good ex math teacher, I celebrated it all day and spent the entire afternoon thinking about the pie I would be making in the evening with which to celebrate this most important holiday.

Teaching colleagues from my teaching days and I bantered back and forth all day with knee slapper pi jokes.  We shared silly stories of student incidents regarding pi lessons.  March 14 is always a marvelous day for those of us that love mathematics.

I had three goals in my plans for celebrating pi day:

1.  Think about pi.

2.  Eat pie.

3.  Behave irrationally.

I almost accomplished all my goals.

I reminisced about a former high school teacher of mine who required his students to memorize twenty digits after the 3 in pi.  He never told us why we had to do this, and to this day, even after teaching college math, I cannot recall all of those digits.  Maybe he was demonstrating an irrational method of educating (pi is an irrational number), and he was way more genius than I ever thought he was (he knew some of us would finally get it 40 years later).  

I also recollected many comical moments I had experienced with my own students in college lectures I gave involving pi.  Typically the class conversation would go like this:

Me:  "Somebody please remind us all what pi is."

Student:  "It's 3.14."

Me:  "But what is it?"

A 2nd student:  "It's a number."

Me:  "But what is it?"

A 3rd student:  "It's (reading off of his calculator) 3.141592654."

Me:  "But what is it?"

A 4th student:  "It's an irrational number."

Me:  "But what is it?"

A 5th student:  "It's a geometry thing."

Me:  "But what is it?"

Etc., etc., until there were no more hands raised, and everyone looked baffled.

This sequence seemed to happen every time I would teach this lesson, and had me often wondering about what they had really learned prior to college.  I would then explain that pi (3.14....) is the number that ALWAYS results when you divide a circle's circumference by its diameter, no matter how big or small the circle is.

Students:  "Oh yeah.  That's what I meant.  I just didn't know how to explain it."

Me:  ("Yeah, right.")

I also explained that it is an irrational number because it never ends (like 2.4 for example), and its digits never set up a repeating pattern (like like 2.3333...... for example).

Goal #1 of my day:  check

I had planned to go all out and make a homemade fruit pie, and although my intentions were good, my energy level got up and left by the evening.  Not wanting to go pie-less on pi day, I resolved to save the day by at least making a box mix pie.

I had a shoofly pie mix I had purchased last summer on a trip to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and I figured that would do in a pinch.

Well, obviously, I had been acting irrational to think that this would actually happen.  I mixed up the molasses with the required hot water, and then read on to the next portion of the directions.  What had I been thinking?  This mix required the purchaser to have a pie crust, yet nowhere anyplace on the box did it say that.  ----> more irrational behavior

It was too late to go out and buy a ready made pie crust, and I was too lacking in energy to make one.  Re-reading the box just to see some bit of fine print telling me I should have had a pie crust, I noted that the expiration date on the mix had passed about five months ago.  ---->some more irrational behavior

I trashed it all.  Still wanting to make some sort of pie, I went ahead and cooked up a meat, onions,  and cheese mix to use tomorrow in a taco pie.  Later, when son Caleb came home from work, he ate literally half of it without my knowing so.  Apparently he figured it was casserole leftovers from dinner, and helped himself.  ----> I wanted to be very irrational at this point.

Goal #2 of my day:  unfinished, but I now have a good excuse to eat pie on another day.

Yes, I had given myself license to behave irrationally all day, but really that is no different than any other day.

Goal #3 of my day:  check

Now that National Pi Day is over for another year,  just don't come and tell me that "1" is a prime number.

Then you'll really see me become irrational.


  1. I love that pie and your play on words. I also love numbers and that is a good thing since I have had to use them in my work for many, many years. Even way back in the dark ages when I went to Penn State, pi was the same (grin).

  2. I would prefer a pi with blueberries in it. Just my preference. And never ending would be good.

  3. Unbeknownst to me that it was pi day, I created the pie of all pies yesterday [leave home alone, with ingredients, something is bound to come out, right?] A pumpkin, cinnamon, caramel crème mousse pie.

    Hot diggity, wish you had been here. We could've been irrational together - y'know, when we polished off the whole pie? ::giggling::

    And your son is so cute. Isn't it always the way? At least we know our sons our good eaters, eh? Nice try on your "pi".

    Let me know when you are in VA I will create "pi" just for you. Hugs!