Michelle Yamasaki prepped her students before the media came to Millikan Middle School a few days ago.
“I don’t want you to say that it is just a number that goes on forever,” said the head of the Math Academy at the school. “This is something that we use every day.”
When the entire 2,169 students at the Sherman Oaks school celebrated Pi Day, TV stations and reporters from the area came out to interview students. The ones wearing their “Pi” shirts were academy members who had properly recited at least 50 of the numbers.
“This academy is extraordinary because it helps students understand how their math works in their every day lives,” said mom Jennifer Marshall, who was one of the dozens of parents who helped out with the school’s Pi Day, where they sold pies, ate pizza pie, threw pies and showed how math can be cool.
“Math can be a lot of fun, and it’s great to know other kids who are good at it,” said Nikita Khromets, 13, who is in the program.
Here are a few fun facts Marshall and the Math Academy came up with:
* Pi is the ration of circumference to the diameter of a circle. No matter how big or small the circle is, if you calculate the distance around it, divided by the distance across it, you will get pi, which is approximately 3.14.
* Pi Day, celebrated on 3-14 (the first few numbers of pi) is also Albert Einstein’s birthday.
* The digits go on forever in a seeming random fashion, making it a fun challenge for people who like to memorize and recite long strings of numbers.
* Pi is used in the search for other planets, in the way the DNA folds, used in the particle collider and in many other fields of science.
The sixth, seventh and eighth graders all participate in competitions and games at Millikan. The toughest competition is trying to recite as many numbers of pi as possible. The school record is a student who recited more than 1,100 digits.
Millikan Middle School Principal John Plevack was on hand helping out with the pie-eating contest and the students even got to throw pies at the faculty members.
Yamasaki helped start the Math Academy at the school five years ago, and it is the only Math Academy in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The students often go through two algebra books a year, answering every question in the books.
“This is a place to go for children who have a good aptitude for math,” Yamasaki said.
The annual fundraiser is to help pay for field trips that include a trip to Catalina Island to visit the Marine Institute, the Jet Propulsion Lab, Sea World, observatories, universities and engineering sites throughout the Southern California area.
Liam Marshall, 14, in the eighth grade, and Jennifer Marshall’s son, has known he is good in math since the third grade.
“Now I hope to design airplanes someday,” Liam said. “I know there will be a lot of math involved.”
Students have to apply to get into the Math Academy and there are now more than 240 students in the program. Obviously, knowing the definition of pi is a prime fact, and when the students are interviewed by media, the faculty wants the students to be able to be well-versed in the definitions.
“Pi has been around since the Bible,” Yamasaki told the students. “It is an important number.”