Arithmetica: Here again and feeling hungry (for some math munchies)! So who’s in the mood for pi… er, pie, that is? Hey, have you ever been in a pie eating contest? Would you like to participate in a pi-calculating contest- or, make this ‘pi’ and eat it, too?
Little Old Lady: Eh? What are you talking about? Speak up, missy!
Arithmetica: Uh, yeah. Pi is a number that you get when you divide the length of the outside rim of any circle- the circumference– by the length of a line drawn exactly through the middle of that circle- the diameter.
Little Old Lady: A number, eh? I remember a time… Zzzzzzz…
Arithmetica: Um, yes. Well, back to pi. It is written using the symbol π and starts 3.1415926… Throughout history, lots of people have tried to figure out how many decimal places there were for π by using division. And, here’s the scary part: THEY DIDN’T HAVE CALCULATORS! Luckily, computers were invented and so, recently, one mathematician was able to calculate over 200 billion (Yes, BILLION) decimal places for pi. You could say that throughout history, finding the exact value of pi has NOT been as easy as pie.
Little Old Lady: Ah, yes, as I was saying…I remember when we didn’t have paper. That’s right- not one sheet! You youngsters have it easy now!
Can you imagine figuring out your math problems on a table dusted with sand? It would be pretty hard to hand your homework in. Heh! Heh! And, if you didn’t do your homework, you would have a great excuse: “My little brother sneezed away my homework.”
Arithmetica: No paper? A sand table? Teachers would have to shovel the homework at you! You’ve have buckets of it to do!
Little Old Lady: Let me tell you- if you lived long ago in Persia (Present-day Iran, mind you), you would indeed do your math calculations on a table of sand. Jamshid Al-Kashi was a mathematician born around 1380, just a little before my time. He was one of the first people to make use of a a new invention imported from China; it was called… da dum…PAPER! Before this, people had to memorize the steps in math problems because they didn’t have a lot of room on the sand table to show their work. Not such a bad idea- all that memorizing. Kids these days… well, don’t get me started! Al-Kashi is also famous because he joined the world-wide pi-calculating contest. You see, he wanted to figure out the circumference of the universe. (In the olden days, people weren’t afraid of a little hard work!) So, Al-Kashi worked out a value for pi to 14 decimal places- a record at the time. This record was unbeaten for over 100 years!
Arithmetica: Maybe we should just let our readers have the recipe for Little Old Lady Gingerbread Pi now.
Little Old Lady: Okay. But first, here’s a little trick, MY grandpa showed me. If you want to remember the digits in the number pi, just remember the phrase:
May I have a large Container of Sweets? Each word has the same number of letters as the first several digits in pi. Take a look: 3. 1 4 1 5 9 2 6
Arithmetica: Very interesting. Now, about that pi?
Little Old Lady: Yes, it’s very tasty if I do say so myself. But don’t forget to measure the circumference and diameter and to figure out pi!
Little Old Lady Gingerbread Pi
1 package instant butterscotch pudding
½ teaspoon ginger
15 gingersnap cookies- crushed
3 tablespoons margarine
1-2 teaspoons water
1. Prepare the crust. Place 15 cookies in a sturdy freezer bag. Use a rolling pin or an unopened can to crush the gingersnap cookies. The cookies will be fine crumbs. Set aside 2 tablespoons of the crumbs.
2. Melt the margarine or butter. Mix into the crumbs. Add the water. Press this mixture into the bottom of a pie plate.
3. Prepare the pudding according to package directions, adding the ginger while mixing. Pour the pudding into the ready pie shell.
4. Sprinkle the rest of the gingersnap crumbs on top of the pie. Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.