To celebrate Pi Day, the Tullahoma Hands-On Science Center held a Pi Day Homeschool Class on Thursday.
Pi Day, an annual celebration of the mathematical constant pi that begins with the digits 3.14 and has, as of this week, been calculated to a new record of 31.4 trillion decimals, is celebrated nationwide on March 14 (3/14). The mathematical constant represents the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.
While only a few of digits are needed for regular calculations, the nearly infinite nature of Pi’s decimal expansion makes it an exciting challenge to memorize.
Locally, the science center took the opportunity to inspire young learners to expand their math knowledge and work on their memory skills by offering students a chance to meet Chris Mangino, a local resident who has memorized hundreds of decimals of pi, said Olga Oakley Arnold Air Force Base STEM Director at the Hands-On Science Center.
Mangino showed off his memory abilities, reciting hundreds of decimals, forward and backward, during the class at the science center on Thursday.
“Mangino works at Arnold Air Force Base,” Oakley said. “He has memorized over a thousand digits of Pi and showed off his spectacular memory to our homeschoolers.”
To encourage young learners, Mangino has launched a project to inspire students to improve their memory skills.
Mangino has provided three trophies to be awarded to the first three visitors to the science center age 18 or younger who can complete his Pi challenge.
“The trophies are to be awarded to three students that can recite at least 100 digits of Pi,” Oakley said.
During Thursday’s class, the students tested their memory abilities.
“We had the students look at the thousand pi digits for 30 seconds and then recite [as many as] they were able to memorize in 30 seconds,” Oakley said. “One student memorized 23 digits. Hopefully after [Thursday], at least a few students will be inspired to work on their memory skills to recite 100 digits at a future event.”
The Pi Day event was part of the center’s efforts to engage children with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) activities.
In the 21st century, scientific and technological innovations have become increasingly important as the world faces the benefits and challenges of both globalization and a knowledge-based economy. To succeed in this new information-based and highly technological society, students need to develop their capabilities in STEM to levels much beyond what was considered adequate in the past, according to the National Science Foundation.
“The Pi Day class was an interesting, unique STEM event that uses the M in STEM – math,” Oakley said. “In spirit of Pi Day, we learned about equations which involve Pi. We discussed certain jobs that might use Pi in real life.”
In addition to using the opportunity to motivate students to learn about pi, the center offered edible pies to the attendees.
“Of course, we had to treat our homeschoolers to some cherry and apple pies,” Oakley said.
Visiting the center
The science center is open Monday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 1-5 p.m.
Admission is $6.75. Admission is free for children 2 or younger. Seniors, 65 or older, and members of the military pay $6.
An annual family membership costs $79.
For more information, call 931-455-8387 or visit www.hosc.org.
Elena Cawley may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.