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Pi Day ideas
Posted:
Mar 20, 2011 3:28 PM


What we did at work around Pi Day was to invite students, alumni, to check out a famous Ramanujan convergent series for 1/pi, and to flip it over to compare with 1001 published digits. I posted the unit test to edusig (Python Nation). The challenge was met by Horacio, a student of mathematics at the University of Havana, with a background in computers.
In the context of doing the research for this little Facebook challenge, I came across Vi Hart's manifesto against pi. I'd been unaware of this media campaign to introduce tau = 2 * pi, as just as important a number, deserving of press. It's the ratio of the circumference to the radius.
Without explicitly siding with Vi's political position, I can see why more focus on tau (the Greek letter) might redound to my benefit, as I consider phi a useful number to dwell on, a cornerstone of Pentagon Math, and tau is often used for phi's reciprocal (and vice versa, if the ugly truth be known).
Yes, I'd be taking advantage of a "name collision" between two namespaces  not the first time such has happened, to someone's advantage.
Both pi and phi may be expressed conveniently as continued fractions. Milo Gardner on mathfuture is pretty sure that such animals as continued fractions, along with much of the number theory stuff (to which group theory adheres), were sliced out of the USA client market thanks to the wave of antiGerman sentiment that swept through academia in the wake of WW1. A more Gaussian garden was pulled up by the roots and replaced with more Euclid. A fascinating thesis which I have not personally found a way to corroborate. A comprehensive treatise on intellectual currents (including fads) on math education, would be most welcome. Suggestions?
Back to the Pi challenge, many math languages, such as Mathematica, will export Pi to N digits. Selecting the obscure Ramanujan formula was a way of getting coders to fall back on their own devices. Having extended (arbitrary) precision decimals certainly helps. The challenge was open to any language. Of course we're not pioneering any new territory in expanding pi to a paltry 1000 digits. This was more about helping students become aware of Ramanujan, math history, and language features. This was also a communitybuilding exercise.
Kirby
Unit test for pi, with two solutions:
http://mail.python.org/pipermail/edusig/2011March/010224.html
http://mail.python.org/pipermail/edusig/2011March/010240.html
http://mail.python.org/pipermail/edusig/2011March/010239.html
Vi's video blog: http://vihart.com/blog/piisstillwrong/
Pi and Phi as continued fractions:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/17157315@N00/5457528415/in/set72157625646071793/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/17157315@N00/5458135362/in/set72157625646071793/
Milo Gardner: http://groups.google.com/group/mathfuture/msg/b4d9acf2325a250c



