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A taste for pi

Millikan Middle School gets in the spirit of a special day to encourage an appetite for math.

March 15, 2012|Matt Stevens
  • Dean Sherman Gardin takes a pie in the face from a student during Pi Day at Millikan Middle School in Sherman Oaks.
Dean Sherman Gardin takes a pie in the face from a student during Pi Day at… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

On Wednesday, it was pie by the numbers in Sherman Oaks.

Teachers, parents and students at Millikan Middle School went all out to honor one of math's most famous numbers: pi, approximately 3.14.

Perfect timing, it being March 14.

To properly commemorate the infinite number, which represents the relationship between a circle's diameter and circumference, the school's Millikan Math Academy presented the third annual Pi Day.

Of course, there was a pie-eating contest. Pizza pies for lunch, anyone? Students even got to throw pies at the principal.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday, March 17, 2012 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 61 words Type of Material: Correction
Celebrating pi: An article in the March 16 LATExtra section about Millikan Middle School's celebration of pi misspelled the last name of teacher Michelle Yamasaki as Tamasaki. Also, the article described pi as an "infinite number." In fact, pi is a finite number, with a value between 3 and 4. Its decimal representation, however, has an infinite number of digits (3.14159...).

Naturally, there was math involved. Eighth-grader Sungmoo Scott Jeong, an academy student, won a contest by reciting pi's next 1,103 digits.

"I practiced every single day, three or four hours a day, for a week," Jeong, 13, said. "I really wanted to win this year."

Indeed. Last year, he recited more than 200 and came in third. His prize this time around: $314.15.

It took more than 100 parent volunteers and four math teachers to pull off the hourlong fundraising event. Michelle Tamasaki, who oversees the academy's 160 students, said that getting a teenager excited about math can be hard.

Solution: fun and freebies, such as the 300 blue Pi Day T-shirts that were given to students who voluntarily memorized the first 50 digits of the number.

"This is a time where kids who are not good at math have a good time with a number," Tamasaki said. "They all get into it."

Jeong, who said he isn't sure about an exact career path yet, plans to keep pursuing the subject.

"There's something about math, something where you have to keep on solving things," he said. "When you get the right answer, it feels great."

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matt.stevens@latimes.com

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