Pi or pie, whether you’re a baker or a math whiz, today is your day! Pi Approximation Day on July 22 honors the concept of pi, denoted by the Greek letter π, which approximates 3.14 in the most mathematically pleasing way. Many bake pies on the holiday to make punny jokes out of Pi Day. It’s a great day to appreciate the math concept used so regularly in many calculations and eat some delicious pie!

## History of Pi Approximation Day

Pi has been known for nearly 4000 years in some form or another. Ancient Babylonians used it — approximated to 3.125 — to calculate the dimensions of circles. It was around 250 B.C. that pi was first calculated by one of the greatest ancient mathematicians, Archimedes of Syracuse. He found that pi fell somewhere between 3 1/7 and 3 10/71. Pi is occasionally referred to as the ‘Archimedes’ Constant.’

Later, in the mid-400s, another brilliant mathematician, Zu Chongzhi, computed pi again with lengthy calculations. Since Archimedes’ books were lost and not in China then, Zu calculated pi in a novel way. Between Zu and Archimedes, these two scientists were the first to know pi in any true sense.

Mathematicians later attempted to better approximate pi using circumscribed and inscribed polygons. This was how Archimedes first solved for pi, and it remained the dominant algorithm for pi computation for 1,000 years. The most correct approximation achieved using this method came in 1630, with Austrian astronomer Christoph Grienberger, who arrived at 38 correct digits of pi.

With the development of the infinite series (the sum of the terms of an infinite sequence) in the 16th and 17th centuries, the way pi was calculated was revolutionized. In India, they discovered it early, between 1400 and 1500 A.D., yet it was European mathematicians like Leibniz and Gregory who popularized it a century later. Though pi was a well-known concept for centuries, it wasn’t until 1706 that the Greek symbol π came to represent it. This was suggested by Welsh mathematician William Jones, but not popularized until it was used by Leonhard Euler in 1737.

In modern times, endless amounts of computing power have been dedicated to approximating the infinite, irrational number to the fullest extent possible. A machine computed for the first time in 1957 when George Reitwiesner and John von Neumann used an ENIAC computer to compute 2,037 digits of pi. Many intrepid mathematicians followed. By 1973, a million digits were reached with this method.

The calculation of pi became a useful stress test for a computer’s abilities — almost like a test for the heart. Mathematicians also hoped to have more accurate calculations for pi for cosmology, though, for most pursuits, few digits are needed. Emma Haruka Iwao, a Google employee who calculated more digits of pi than anyone else to this point — 31 trillion — has earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

## Pi Approximation Day Timeline

## Pi Approximation Day FAQs

**Where is Pi Approximation Day celebrated?**

The United States.

**Why is Pi Approximation Day celebrated?**

Pi Approximation Day is on July 22 and is dedicated to the infinite constant pi (π). The holiday is also known as Casual Pi Day.

**Who found pi?**

The first calculation of pi was carried out by one of the greatest mathematicians of the time, Archimedes of Syracuse (287-212 B.C.).

## Pi Approximation Day Activities

**Bake some pi(e)**

Many bakers find Pi Approximation Day the perfect, punny excuse to whip up a pie. Many of the Pi Approximation Day pies even feature pi, the Greek letter, as a decoration on top!

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**Memorize pi**

One of the most notable features of pi is that it is infinite. It continues indefinitely without any pattern or repetition, making it both a transcendental and irrational number. Schoolchildren and mathematicians alike find it a fun challenge to memorize as many digits of the number as they can! Challenge a friend or family member to beat your knowledge of pi today.

**Celebrate mathematics**

At its core, Pi Approximation Day is a celebration of all the math that pi has allowed us to do. It is essential for the basic calculation of the circumference of a circle, but even NASA also uses pi in a variety of ways, like calculating spacecraft trajectories! Pi is an essential constant for some of the most important math we know.

## 5 Fun Facts About Pi

**We’ll never know the true area of a circle**

Though you’ve been calculating the area and circumference of a circle with pi since elementary school, you’ll actually never know the exact measurements since we’ll never know pi!**70,000 digits have been memorized**

Achieved by a student, Rajveer Meena of VIT University, the record for most digits of pi memorized and recited is 70,000 — the recitation took 10 hours!**The pyramids were built with pi**

Believe it or not, pi was a part of Ancient Egyptian mythology — the people built their wondrous pyramids using the principles of pi.**We know more than 30 trillion digits**

Though pi can never be fully calculated, mathematicians have set computers to work to calculate as many decimals of pi as possible — these days, we’re up to over 31 trillion digits.**Pi has been pi for 250 years**

First used by Welsh mathematician William Jones in 1706, the Greek symbol for pi (π) took the place of the old, clunky identifier: “the quantity which when the diameter is multiplied by it, yields the circumference.”

## Why We Love Pi Approximation Day

**Pi is infinitely cool**

Pi (π) is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter — and, amazingly, for all circles of any size, pi will always be the same. Pi is an ‘irrational number,’ meaning its exact value is completely unknown. Scientists have calculated billions of digits starting with 3.14159265358979323…, but no recognizable pattern ever emerges. We could continue on and on until infinity and we’d still have no idea what digit might emerge next.

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**Pi sounds like pie**

If you are a nerd who likes pies, this holiday is pretty much the best combination of some of the best things in life: pie and mathematics. And, of course, that means that to celebrate abstract mathematical items that are somewhat irrational, the obvious solution is to incorporate pie into the holiday.

**Pi links mathematics to the real world**

Maybe when you were in math class, you stared off into space wondering why on earth ‘logs’ or ‘proofs’ mattered so much — pi is the answer. Well, at least it’s one of the things that links math back to real-world uses. Because pi is linked to circles it is also linked to cycles, things like calculating waves, ebb and flow, the ocean tides, electromagnetic waves, and much more. In addition, many natural world phenomena can also be calculated with pi — like the shape of rivers, the disc of the sun, the spiral of DNA, and even the pupil of an eye.

Celebrate Pi Approximation Day by baking a pie, challenging yourself to memorize more digits of pi, or simply appreciating the incredible ways mathematics shapes our world. Whether you’re indulging in a slice of pie or marveling at the infinite beauty of pi, today is a day to honor the fascinating intersection of math and real life!