Pi Day –3.14, or March 14–is a big deal where we live. If you stroll around town, you might find yourself bumping into Albert Einstein or walking in on a Mathlete contest.
For this exciting day, LL decided to join the Pi recitation competition. For a week and a half, he went through sheet after sheet, each printed with 6 digits, as he painstakingly memorized the first 180 digits of Pi (or 179, according to the judges, who only count the decimals). Cool J sat in the background while LL studied, calling out random numbers or yelling “Ticka ticka!” When I told him to be quiet, he sighed his 4 year old sigh and said, “But reciting Pi is SO uncool.”
LL plugged away at his numbers. He also spent some time praying that his archnemesis, Sonofworldfamousmathematician, wouldn’t show up. Sonofworldfamousmathematician had won the contest both years of its existence. Last year, at 9 years old, he recited 315 digits. Sometimes I fed LL Wikipedia-gleaned facts about Sonofworldfamousmathematician. For example, at 10, he is not only an uncle, but a 3-times-over great-uncle because his dad is not only busy developing new theories! Sonofworldfamousmathematician became as real and unreal as Superman.
And then the day arrived. The judges were introduced. One of the judges is a professional competitor; he can recite 15,314 digits. The kids were to recite in no particular order. The contest was for kids ages 7-13, so the range was quite large. One very cute little 3 year old got up on stage and said, “3.141 . . . ” (LL in my ear, “That’s it?? That’s all he can do . . .?”). LL, at 6, is also below the minimum age. Still, he was very hopeful that he might win the prize: a whopping $314.15(9)! We were less hopeful, but proud. We tried to change the conversation when we heard him promising Cool J various coveted Legos with his prize (this part, of course, was *cool*).
When LL got on stage, it was right after a 13 year old girl who is, according to our google search, a perfect Type A. Last year for her bat miztvah project, she raised money by running a half marathon. I’m still years away from getting that far in my running.
Type A began to recite. And recite. At one point, she faltered and asked if they judges could repeat back her last 10 digits string. They demurred. The room was tense as she thought and fidgeted and thought and then continued — and ultimately recited one thousand seven hundred and five digits!!!
So, LL didn’t win. But, being 6, he was just as disappointed that he didn’t get a glimpse of Sonofworldfamousmathematician as not winning $314.15 (I secretly wondered if the boy wonder had fled around the time Type A was getting to her 1000th digit).
And that was that. The victory was not to belong to my child this year. Which isn’t to say it wasn’t a great experience (this is the same boy about whom I would get notes home last year from his teacher reading “Good news! Your son said something in class today!”). Anyway, the day is not just about money and pi digits. It’s a fun day for geeks of all kinds. Maybe I’ll do one of the contests next year. I was thinking maybe I’d write a Piku (3/1/4) or better yet, the pie eating contest might be right up my alley.
According to my sister, Nancy Botwin, after whom Cool J apparently takes, Pi Day is so uncool. For the non-geeks who make up the rest of the world, she tells me, March 14 has nothing to do with pi–or pie. It is a holiday of a very different sort. I *blush* to repeat such a thing, but let me tell you that when she told me her version, I realized why it might just draw a larger crowd . . .
So, whether you’re a meat-loving freak or a math-loving geek, Happy 3.14!