Photography is very important to Kevin Lopez. He has been taking photos since he was a child. When he joined LaGuardia, he was excited to pursue his passion and find some solidarity. But there was no structured group that catered exclusively to his lifelong love. “It was a good idea to start a Photography Club […]
Can Math Be Fun? Of Course!
If you think fun and math do not add up, you should check your calculations.
The proof of this possible sum took place in the afternoon of March 13th, when the E-Building Atrium was filled with pizza, games, and numbers in honor of the 8th Pi Day Celebration. Students, staff and faculty members were invited to enjoy a fun and fraternal atmosphere where mathematics was the guest of honor.
Mystery-questions, knitting, chess, origami, fun facts, project information and professional advising for students were part of this celebration, which was complemented with prizes and free pizza to compensate those who managed to complete the activities successfully.
But, how did Pi (π), the irrational number used in different mathematical formulas and problems, get its own day on the calendar?
This celebration originated in 1988, when physicist Larry Shaw worked at The Exploratorium Museum in San Francisco. He decided to hold a celebration on March 14th (3/14), due to the numerical representation of Pi, which begins with 3.14. From then on, it became an annual celebration at the museum.
In 2009, Pi Day was not more than just a small celebration. It became a National holiday in the U.S. thanks to the support of the House of Representatives. Pi Day has also begun to be celebrated in different countries.
LaGuardia Community College did not want to be left behind, and it celebrated its first Pi Day in 2012. It became an annual tradition that takes place on the Wednesday closest to March 14th. This great initiative was born after a discussion between colleagues in the Math Department, who decided to demonstrate that those common stories told about mathematics are not entirely true.
“When people ask me ‘what do you do?’, I say: ‘Well, I teach math. I’m a math professor.’ They’re scared of it because they don’t know that being exposed to Mathematics can be very fun,” said Shenglan Yuan, a professor in the Mathematics, Engineering & Computer Science Department (M.E.C.). “We are trying to bring a playful part of mathematics to the campus,” she confirmed.
Professor Yuan and Professor Reem Jaafar, another M.E.C. Department faculty member, have been the promoters of the celebration since its inception seven years ago. This year, Professor Tao Chen also from the M.E.C. Department, joinedthem. They focused their efforts to give the entire college community an entertaining time with math, as opposed to what is regularly expected in a classroom.
“A lot of us here at LaGuardia are passionate about math, not just in terms of teaching in our class, but in terms of how do we show everybody the other face of math,” said Professor Jaafar, who \ also highlighted that Pi Day Celebration is not just for STEM students. “Really, the aim behind this type of event is accessibility, [we] want it to be as inclusive as we can. So, it’s for absolutely all students, all majors.”
This concept of accessibility and inclusiveness was reflected through the different tables and activities. Students had the opportunity to test their creativity through assembling geometric bodies in 3-D or solving math problems with different levels of difficulty. So, if your knowledge of mathematics is basic, do not worry, you can also win and have a fun time.
Arajit Das, a 23-year-old Computer Science student, said that he enjoys attending these kinds of entertaining events. “It’s pretty cool. I like to come here because of mathematics. It is very challenging, and I like it.”
Likewise, Pi Day is also an opportunity to learn how to use mathematics as an interdisciplinary science that can be applied to our daily lives.
Knitting is one of the activities where mathematics can do its magic. Professor Marina Dedlovskaya, from the M.E.C. Department, explained how simple calculations using a swatch can help determine the number of stitches and rows you need to knit. “It also involves calculations of how many wool yarns you will need, if there is any leftover or if you have enough for two scarves,” she added.
In addition, the event also presented “Math is Everywhere,” a contest that provides students with the opportunity to show their creativity, do research together with faculty members and compete in teams with original projects in different fields where mathematics can be applied. The initiative was created four years ago and is sponsored by the Co-Curricular Funding Initiative from the Division of Students Affairs.
Glenn Henshaw and Soloman Kone, professors in the Math and Social Science departments, respectively, encourage students to participate in order to win up to $1000. “It’s a great opportunity for students to get through the door with student research. Even if you study Literature, there are still connections with mathematics,” said Professor Henshaw.
In previous years, students have worked on projects ranging from a wind turbine tovideo games to a system used to identify real and false news. “We have seen projects on economics, history, arts, computer sciences, and natural sciences. It’s a visible broad discipline,” said Professor Kone.
Christian Singleton (25), an Electrical Engineering student, attended the Pi Day Celebration and considered “Math is Everywhere” as his favorite table at the event. “This event is fantastic. It introduces me to this interesting project that I definitely want to take advantage of.”
The Pi Day Celebration has gained more attraction in the last years and M.E.C. Department hopes to continue expanding this celebration in future years to the entire college community. So, this event can be a great option to attend in March, particularly if you want to have fun, eat pizza and find a reason to enjoy math.