With testing season in full swing, lots of classrooms around the country are full of students and teachers working hard to ensure success on the tests. For many, this means missing out on some of the fun of learning (and teaching!). And during March, a month that is home to several different math holidays, that can be particularly unfortunate as it could mean many students don’t get the chance to enjoy delicious pie or be inspired by women pioneers in mathematics. So read on to learn why you should take a few minutes to recognize some of these fun and interesting math holidays in March!
Perhaps the most famous of all the math holidays is Pi Day! If you’ve forgotten your geometry, pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, and always stays the same, no matter the circle’s size. This holiday falls on March 14 because the first three digits of pi are 3, 1, and 4. (And years ending in ’15 and ’16 have a greater importance because the numbers that follow those are 1, 5, and 9.)
In 1988, the first Pi Day was organized by Larry Shaw at the San Francisco Exploratorium, so this year marks the 30th annual celebration. The staff there, along with the public, marched around a circular space together, then enjoyed some fruit pies. In the years since, the celebration has grown to be a national holiday, and now involves people all over the country writing “pi-ku’s” (a pi-themed take on the Japanese style of poetry, haikus), writing and performing music inspired by pi, and playing other games that involve calculating pi.
Sonia Kovalevsky (Sofia Kovalevskaya) Day
Going back in history a bit further brings us to Sofia Kovalevskaya, the first major Russian woman mathematician and a role model and pioneer for girls and women. Sofia was born in Russia in 1850 during a time when most women ended their education when they were fairly young. She showed an interest in and aptitude for math, so her parents encouraged this by hiring tutors for her. A teenaged Sofia later moved to Germany to continue her studies because women weren’t allowed to attend universities in Russia.
With a lot of hard work (and the overcoming of many barriers that made this quite difficult for her), Sofia earned her doctorate in mathematics summa cum laude from the University of Göttingen. She was the first woman in Europe to do this, but struggled to find work as a lecturer or professor despite offering to work for free. She finally found work at Stockholm University (where she started going by Sonia), and worked her way up to be the first woman to hold the title of Professor Ordinarius (professor chair holder). She was also granted a chair by the Russian Academy of Sciences, but died without ever receiving a professorship in her home country.
Today, girls and women all over the world see Sofia as a pioneer in the field of mathematics. The Association for Women in Mathematics sponsors Sonia Kovalevsky High School and Middle School Mathematics Days throughout the spring in her honor to encourage girls to study math, and to highlight Sofia’s remarkable contributions, both as a woman and as a mathematician.
World Maths Day
Each year in March, the Mathletics® organization conducts a free, online math competition known as World Maths Day for students aged 4 to 18 all over the world. Students can play up to 20 games during a 48-hour period, where they’ll be challenged with math questions appropriate for their age and skill level. For each game, students have 60 seconds to correctly answer as many questions as possible. They’ll earn a point for each correct answer, and those who earn the most points will see their names displayed on the Hall of Fame Leaderboard.
World Maths Day was first held on March 13, 2007, and saw nearly 300,000 students from 98 countries answer over 38 million math questions! This year, students from Europe, the US, Asia, and the Middle East participated on March 7th, and the results of the competition are still being tabulated. Students who place first, second, and third for each year group earn gold, silver, and bronze medals, and those who place fourth through tenth receive special printed certificates. And trophies are awarded to the top three schools that participate!
If you’d like to get in on the fun yourself, try out one of the 60-second games here. And no cheating!
For many students, math is a challenging and scary subject, but it doesn’t have to be! You likely do some form of math every single day, so it’s important that students, young and old, understand the value of working through the challenge and fear that math can bring up. So inject some fun into their math instruction with games, music, and pie as you celebrate these math holidays this month.
7 math holidays you should celebrate. (2016, February, 2). STEM Jobs. Retrieved from http://stemjobs.com/math-holidays/
What is pi in math? (n.d.). Pi Day website. Retrieved from http://www.piday.org/learn-about-pi/
Pi Day. (n.d.). Exploratorium website. Retrieved from https://www.exploratorium.edu/pi/history-of-pi
Pi Day. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pi_Day
Rao, S. (2018, February 28). World Maths Day 2018: Can you pass this Year 10 maths quiz in 60 seconds? Retrieved from http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/parenting/school-life/world-maths-day-2018-can-you-pass-this-year-10-maths-quiz-in-60-seconds/news-story/7ca02ffc9a9ca56f715522ab52627adb
Sofya Kovalevskaya. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sofia_Kovalevskaya
Sonia Kovalevsky High School and Middle School Mathematics Days. (n.d.) Association for Women in Mathematics website. Retrieved from https://awm-math.org/programs/math-outreach/
World Maths Day. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Maths_Day
World Maths Day. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://worldmathsday.com/