Is Pi really necessary?
As teachers, we often hear students complain:
“why are we learning this?”
“we are never going to use this in real life!”
and I have to say, this is especially so when teaching Pi.
It does seem that unless you become a Math teacher, you may never need to calculate the circumference or area of a circle. However, as it’s Pi day, let’s take a look at 10 ways students can use Pi when class is out!
NASA, among other astronomers, use Pi every day to calculate all manner of space-related arcs and circles. Whether they are looking into a planet’s orbits, craters on meteors or a rocket’s traveling distance, Pi is essential if you want to work in NASA.
As we become a more digitized culture, more jobs will require skills in computer programming and mechanical engineering. Pi is used to determine how fast and powerful a computer is, and thus being able to accurately use Pi is necessary to ace this career choice.
It’s unlikely that the Egyptian Pyramids will need to be recreated any time soon, but Pi is widely used in all forms of architecture and engineering. Any time you need to create a circle, you know which formula you need?
If you are heading to the beach this summer and fancy catching a wave, you might first want to work out the size of the barrel to get your best surf yet! Scientists can predict surf conditions based on weather conditions and Pi.
Fancy being an ophthalmologist? Doctors regularly use Pi to look for irregularities in the shape of the eye, helping to predict future sight issues. Pi also can be used to accurately describe the geometry of the DNA double helix, which is found in every living being on the planet.
Grandfather clocks are pendulum clocks which use a pendulum, a swinging weight, as its timekeeping element. The advantage of a pendulum for timekeeping is that it is a harmonic oscillator: it swings back and forth in a precise time interval dependent on its length, and resists swinging at other rates. Working out the swing of a pendulum requires knowledge of arcs and Pi to ensure accurate timekeeping.
A sine wave or sinusoid is a mathematical curve that describes a smooth periodic oscillation. Sine waves, calculated by 2π, are used to transmit signals such as the telephone and radar. Any jobs in music, radio, cell phones and the like will thus require Pi!
The earth is round (undebatable) and as such all travel happens in an arch. When working out GPS coordinates, Pi is used to calculate distances both on the ground and in the air. Aeronautical navigators must use Pi to work out exact calculations on the distance which will be flown to ensure there is enough fuel on board. Next time you travel on a plane, give a thought to those who have made the calculations to put enough fuel onboard to get you to your destination.
Multiple areas of sport require Pi, from calculating the amount of material needed for a basketball to the height of release of a Javelin for optimal distance thrown. Biomechanics uses Pi to determine strength of bodily levers involved in kicking a ball or swinging a racquet. You might not have thought about it, but all elite athletes will use Pi to reach their highest level of performance.
Have you ever made a cake? When adding frosting, did you calculate there was enough fondant without any overlapping or just guess and go for it? Next time try using a formula using Pi to avoid waste and get that perfect cake!
Even calculating the length of a rainbow requires Pi!
Beating world records
Every year people try to recite the most digits in Pi and occasionally they break the record. The current record holder stands at over 70,000 digits. Better get learning for next year!
Students may not realize it now, but they will play important roles in society in the future and they will be designing, leading and creating using Pi throughout their lives. Use our Quiz “Pi Day” on Quizalize to interest your students in the nuances of Pi.