Math Dept. To Skip Pi Parties

Pi Day will pass by this Saturday, March 14, without the traditional festivities organized by the Mathematics Department, leaving at least one young math aficionado disappointed.

Eight-year-old Ian Reid found out about the annual challenge to memorize the digits of pi last year. By New Year’s Day, he could recite 100 digits.

“I haven’t even told him yet,” said Jasper Reid, Ian’s father. “He’s going to be disappointed.”

In the past, celebrations of the irrational number have included pie-eating and pi-counting contests. Last year, a Boston College senior won the contest by rattling off 3,141 figures of pi.This year’s celebrations were put on hold because organizers would not be available. Math professor Noam D. Elkies, who has been one of the main organizers of the event, will not be in Cambridge this weekend and said that he was not able to find someone to take his place.

Former Math Preceptor Bret J. Benesh had also been active in preparing the event, but he left Harvard last year.

“So we finally decided to just forgo the pi partying this time around and try again next year,” Elkies wrote in an e-mail from a conference in Florida.

Despite the lack of festivities, the Math Department honored the day at its weekly forum held at Mather dining hall on Tuesday. Guest speaker Luke Anderson, a financial analyst for Harvard and the founder of TeachPi.org, discussed the historical fascination and what he called “modern pi fixation.”

Anderson also made sure to perform his pi rap based on Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” according to Juliana Belding, who organized Tuesday’s Math Table.

Francois W. Greer ’11, who came in third place at last year’s pi-reciting contest, said he had not realized that the celebrations would be missing. He said that even if the festivities were taking place this year, he probably would not participate as he no longer recalls all 228 figures he recited last year.

“It was pretty crazy,” he said of watching James Nile-Joyal reach 3,141 digits.

Some of the 30 or 40 people who were in attendance began leaving long before he finished, according to Greer.

This weekend some will still be celebrating pi day. A group on Craigslist.com explained their plan: “To celebrate Pi Day (3.14), we’ll gather at exactly 1:59pm in Boston Common to smash pies ever so gently in one another’s face.”

—Staff writer Noah S. Rayman can be reached at nrayman@fas.harvard.edu.