The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday August 20th

To UNC math students, the number that never ends can also be delicious

DTH Photo Illustration. Students, teachers, and math enthusiasts prepare for annual Pi Day celebrations.
Buy Photos DTH Photo Illustration. Students, teachers, and math enthusiasts prepare for annual Pi Day celebrations.

A person can look at pi forever or they can eat pie in seconds, but for students whose passion is math, Pi Day is a great way to celebrate one of the most studied constants in the field with some homemade — or store-bought — pie.

People celebrate Pi Day every year on March 14 to represent the first three digits of 3.14. This day honors the math constant “pi,” which is represented by the Greek symbol π. Pi is calculated by dividing the circumference of a circle by its diameter and goes on for infinity. Because of that, mathematicians use the Greek symbol to encapsulate the transcendental number.

The enthusiasm surrounding Pi Day is the same enthusiasm felt by people who have decided to dedicate their life to math, like Nick Tapp-Hughes, a senior studying math and computer science and the president of the Carolina Math Club. 

“I love math because I think it captures a lot of the natural beauty of the universe," Tapp-Hughes said. "It's also very important for the scientific study of the natural world. It gives us a very nice language to describe the world. Math scratches an itch for me, I would say."

Austin Blitstein, a junior studying physics and math and the treasurer of the Society of Physics Students, said he enjoys the challenge of learning new steps to each problem. 

“Math, I appreciate just for how it's built upon just one logical conclusion after the other," Blitstein said. "Everything just naturally follows, yet at the same time, you need some creative thinking to actually bridge the gap from the next to the next step, since it's not immediately obvious what the next step is in the first place. And then I think physics comes in and ties in meaning to why we're taking these steps in the first place."

Blitstein also said he finds it interesting that pi can show up almost anywhere in the world we live in.

"It appears a lot in nature too, because I guess the universe as a whole, there's a lot of problems that can be solved that have to deal with cylindrical or spherical symmetry," he said. "And because of that, pi just naturally shows up the world around us. So it's a very interesting number."

Xiao-Ming Porter, the current social chairperson of Visibility in Physics at Carolina and a math and physics double major, explained why they get excited about both. 

“I like to understand how things work and why things happen," Porter said. "So to me, it just seems like the most fundamental way that I can go explore how and why things happen. I actually like math for a slightly different reason, though. Because the thing that's cool about math to me, is that you take things that don't exist and then you make them exist."

Pies come in all shapes and forms, and Porter said they once preferred theirs hot and savory.  

“OK, the funny thing, my favorite pie, like the one that I enjoy eating most, is probably chicken pot pie," Porter said. "But I'm a vegetarian now, so I haven't had it in a while.”

Now a fan of sweet pies, Porter switched allegiance from pumpkin pie quicker than you can take it out the oven. 

“I gotta say I like sweet potato pie more than pumpkin pie," Porter said. "I just decided this."

While the Carolina Math Club, the Society of Physics Students and Visibility in Physics have not been able to celebrate Pi Day in past years because it has fallen during a weekend or Spring Break, that has not stopped members from celebrating the day individually.

Porter said they will be honoring the day by baking a pie, as they usually do on Pi Day.

"I like to cut the shape of the number pi into the pie crusts," they said.

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.


The Daily Tar Heel Victory Paper for March 7, 2022

Special Print Edition

Games & Horoscopes

Print Edition Games Archive