Uh-Oh… Pi Day’s Getting Political?

Hi, Friends in Pi!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Another Pi Day is approaching, and while there’s not much mathematically special about 3/14/17 (except maybe for the fact that 3+14=17, but who’s counting?), this year’s holiday is apparently going to make a splash in an unexpected way. The news cycle on Pi Day 2017, when it isn’t making oft-used pi/pie puns while playing Pi Diddy’s rap, will likely be focused on a protest.

No, it’s not a protest of our beloved number. Who could ever protest Pi? Well, other than that Tau Manifesto guy or those ten naysayers back in ’09. Rather, it’s a political protest, planned by and for workers in science and technology fields. The center of the action will be the town square in Palo Alto, CA, where folks will gather for an event they’re calling “Tech Stands Up.” It officially kicks off at Pi Time, 1:59pm. They are expecting similar events to spring forth in other American cities too. Yep, you can’t make this stuff up.

(Incidentally, just 35 miles up the 101 into the heart of San Francisco, at the very same time, the Exploratorium will be marking its 30th annual Pi Day celebration with free admission and its usual over-the-top antics like the Pi Procession. Hey, this is the museum that is credited as the birthplace of Pi Day, so they’re allowed to celebrate it however they like!)

So anyway, as someone who likes to use Pi to bring us all together in an appreciation of the beauty of math, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about Pi Day becoming political. I suppose this isn’t actually the first time these two irrational entities have overlapped; once again, if you don’t know what happened in Congress in 2009, you might want to read that story, which happens to feature someone who is now the Vice President.

But co-opting Pi Day for politics is a bit of a slippery slope. What’s next? Legislating Pi’s value as exactly 2.9 after coercion from a local crackpot? Oh wait, that happened too, back in 1895. Misquoting Pi’s value under oath in a famous murder trial? Suing for the legal rights to Pi’s melody? Argh! Both also happened, and man, I need to write up and share some more of these stories! Trust me, the Stories section here at TeachPi.org is only a thin slice of Pi’s volumes of tales.

Anyway, it’s all pretty irrational, if you ask me. (Yes, pun once again intended.) If you need me, I’ll be lying low on Pi Day, just doing my normal thing and celebrating with a presentations and performances by my friend Pi Diddy at a local middle school. My favorite way to spend the day is, and always will be, using stories and silliness to help kids get a little more excited about math.

Enjoy your Pi Day, the 30th one on record (thanks again, Exploratorium!), and let me know where the day leads you — whether out onto the streets, into a festive classroom, or simply down a lovely stream of digits!


Luke Anderson is the founder and proprietor of TeachPi.org. Luke has been a Pi Day presenter to K-12, college, and adult audiences around the country for more than 20 years, and is a frequent contributor to Pi-related stories in the media.

Leave a Reply


captcha *