Math is something to celebrate

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By Shannon Brock

I’m a math nerd. I can’t help it — I absolutely love numbers.

In fact, to this day, my high school calculus teacher has a hard time believing I ended up in a career working with words (of all things). I sometimes find it hard to believe myself.

I spent four years studying words and learning how to put them together in interesting, yet readable ways. During those four years, I didn’t have a single math class (even though I considered taking one or two for fun). Yet when it came time to take the GRE, I scored considerably higher on the quantitative section than I did on the verbal section. Go figure.

Given my affinity for numbers, imagine my surprise at hearing that yesterday was “Square Root Day.” I’d never heard of such a thing until Monday night.

It was 3/3/09 — both the month and the day are the square roots of the last two digits of the year.

It’s a pretty exciting and relatively rare event. According to an Associated Press article, Square Root Day only comes around nine times each century. The last one was five years ago on 2/2/04, and the next one is seven years away on 4/4/16.

According to a Wikipedia article, Square Root Day is often celebrated by eating square radishes or other root vegetables that are cut up into square cross sections. Other celebrators make food in the shape of a square root symbol.

While I’m sure I did a little math dance yesterday and I probably told more people than wanted to know about the holiday, I have to say it’s not as tasty as Pi Day.

That’s right, I said it — Pi Day.

The aforementioned calculus teacher introduced me to this other nerdy holiday, which occurs yearly on March 14 (3.14 are the first three digits of pi).

During my first Pi Day celebration in 2002, my precalculus classmates and I were allowed to bring in all sorts of round food, including (you guessed it) pies.

The pies were quite wonderful, but my favorite memory of that day is when all the guys in the class — including my husband — were “encouraged” to stand in front of the class and sing Pi Day songs, like “Oh Number Pi” sung to the tune of “Oh Christmas Tree” and “Pi Day Song” sung to the tune of “Jingle Bells.”

After graduating, my friend April and I have kept up the celebratory tradition as much as possible. While in college, Pi Day usually fell during spring break, so a time or two we took Pi Day gifts to our former teacher. I’m pretty sure we picked out some Fudge Rounds, which are circles, and put them in a polka dot (circles) gift bag. We also send Pi Day e-cards. Yes, they exist.

While these holidays may seem silly and completely unappealing to some people, there are people like me who light up with a smile just talking about them. Silly as they are, they’re a way to make math fun, and that’s something everyone can relate to.

While Square Root Day has passed, I strongly encourage everyone to have a pi celebration on the 14th. Eat a piece of pie, bake a round cake or walk around in circles —just have some fun in the name of math.

E-mail Shannon Mason Brock at sbrock@theandersonnews.com.