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NHS math teacher celebrates Pi Day

Cary Ashby • Mar 14, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Norwalk High School math teacher Becky Molnar has been celebrating Pi Day in her classes since 1999.

“I started it in my classes and encouraged other teachers to get involved by having them discuss with their students how they use pi in other subject areas,” she said.

The value of pi equals the ratio of the circumference of a circle divided by the diameter.

“Pi is an important value in mathematics because it is equal to the circumference of a circle divided by its radius. No matter what the size of the circle (is), the ratio is always 3.1415…,” Molnar said.

The math teacher was asked why Pi Day is important for students and mathematicians.

“I think it is good for students to see where this value comes from and the history behind finding it. Real people who were interested and curious about math discovered the formulas and calculations in math over the years. Students take this information for granted, not knowing the amount of time that went into all of these discoveries,” she said.

Molnar shared what happens on Pi Day at NHS.

“The teachers all wear shirts on Pi Day with two digits of pi listed on the backs. Students then have all day to list the teachers in order of their digits for a prize at the end of the day. It's fun for staff and students,” she said. 

“The math department brings pies to share with the staff. … Other math teachers also give students a chance to recite digits of pi and do activities in their classes.” 

Pi Day isn’t just about eating yummy desserts in Molnar’s class.

“In my math class, the students have to memorize the first 10 digits after the decimal for a quiz grade. They can memorize more for bonus points. I have kept track of all of the students who have memorized more than 100 digits. I call it the 100 Digit Club,” she said.

The top three NHS students in the 100 Digit Club are: 

• First place: Kendall Bigler, a junior - 287 digits (in 2016)

• Second place: Matt Neuberger, a junior - 270 digits (in 2015)

• Third place: Jessica Crane, a senior - 263 digits (in 2014)

“Students bring in pies that we measure — because the value of pi equals the ratio of the circumference divided by the diameter — and then we eat the pies. There are entertaining videos and songs about Pi Day that we watch,” Molnar said.

“I have volunteers do a Pi Day rap and sing other pi songs. There are other mathematical activities that we do that help estimate the value of pi and we discuss the history of pi over the years. The Babylonians once used 3 as the value of pi. It wasn't until computers were invented that we could calculate the trillions of digits that make pi.”

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