Math Faculty and Students Celebrate Pi Day
Faculty and students at Fairfield University recently visited students at elementary schools to take part in the celebration of a very special day – Pi Day.
On March 14 — 3/14 after all — mathematicians and math lovers around the globe recognized Pi (Greek letter π), the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is approximately 3.14.
Celebrating the irrational number varies from person to person. Dr. Laura McSweeney, associate professor of mathematics, said, “An irrational number is a number that cannot be expressed as a fraction or is a non-repeating decimal. People often celebrate Pi Day by reciting as many decimals of Pi as possible. One man, Mr. Chao Lu recited 67890 digits of Pi (in 24 hours and 4 seconds).”
Drs. McSweeney and Janet Striuli, assistant professor of mathematics, took part in Pi Day festivities as well — by creating special activities for young students, many of them female.
They went to two schools in Fairfield County: Trumbull’s Frenchtown Elementary School (22 female students) and Fairfield’s Jennings Elementary School (13 students). Activities for the day included lively discussions about the relationship between the circumference and diameter; estimating the value of Pi using circles, squares, and beads, and learning fun facts about Pi (Einstein was born on 3/14!).
In addition, the young students were introduced to the many career paths in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) that are open to them.
Math majors Mary Grace Galterio ’15, Francesca Lombardo ’15, and Carli Markus ’15, along with graduate student Michelle Leong, assisted with the activities of the day
Markus said that the day was an exciting one for everyone involved. “It was great to see the kids have fun while learning so much about Pi! They really enjoyed the activities we had for them and left with some prizes and new knowledge about math!
This is the second year that Drs. Striuli and McSweeney celebrated Pi Day with young students. Last year, they attended the GEMS Program (Girls Excelling in Math and Science) at the Bethany Community School.
Dr. Striuli said, “I think it is important to reach out to the students early in their careers and communicate that mathematics is a process of exploration and discovery. Despite many efforts, females remain underrepresented in STEM professions. I think is very important to offer as many as possible female role models in the STEM professions to young students.”
Dr. McSweeney said, “We had a presentation that showed various Fairfield University STEM majors and what careers they hoped to have. The common thread was that all the college students who spoke liked math and noted that it was an important foundation or requirement of their career choice. We also selected some of the STEM students with career choices that went against common gender stereotypes (like a male who hopes to become a nurse or a female that wants to design video games, etc.) Our hope is that the elementary school students (both males and females) would identify with our students, see different career choices and plant the seed that mathematics is a subject that is critical for them.”
“Above all,” Dr. Striuli said, “We had fun!”