PiMathalon celebrates March 14
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A small group of faculty and students got together on March 13 to celebrate one of the few things in the universe that will never end – pi.
Pi Day, March 14, was ushered in with an event called PiMathalon from March 10-13. The idea for PiMathalon was conceived by Brian Hollenbeck, professor of mathematics.
PiMathalon consisted of three events, including the 400 year dash, Tour de ESU and the Mindstroke. Each of these events had a specific theme, such as problem solving or finding specific places on campus.
Students who participated in the event worked on the problems individually or in a teams containing up to three members. All of this culminated in the final event, called the Pyth-event, where students had to find a statuette of the mathematician Pythagoras.
According to Hollenbeck, PiMathalon was not initially intended for Pi Day.
“Originally, we were looking for something to (serve as) an activity for students that were coming to a conference here at ESU,” Hollenbeck said. “We’re hosting the Mathematical Association of America Conference.”
The PiMathalon was put together in such a way that it would be a competition. The ultimate winner was Amy Bretches, senior computer science and math major, who received an Applebee’s gift card. Bretches said PiMathalon was “something to get people of all skill levels of math involved in celebrating Pi day, so involved in celebrating math, basically.”
Betsy Yanik, professor of mathematics, computer science and economics, said pi is an old number with a long history dating back to antiquity, and some interesting applications.
“One interesting aspect is for students in mathematics at a fairly early age, it’s one of the first examples of a number that’s irrational, that it has a decimal expansion thats non-repeating, and yet they can think about it in a nice application… a circle,” Yanik said.
Bretches said events like the PiMathalon help people learn about the benefits and value of math.
“It helps you with critical thinking,” Bretches said. “That’s one of the things I’ve seen, because I’ve always loved math and I think that thinking mathematically means thinking logically.”