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In the Mood for Some Pi(e)?

Thanks to computer-driven calculations, we know the ratio of the circumference of any circle to its diameter goes on past one trillion digits. But since the 18th century, we’ve just called this behemoth number, Pi (π). And since 1988, people have been celebrating Pi Day on March 14th (3/14). Daily Observations has a few suggestions for celebrating Pi Day the psychological-science way:

Don’t use your high school geometry skills very often? They might be helping you out anyway. A new article in Current Directions in Psychological Science suggests that “numeracy” — like literacy, but for numbers instead of letters — actually helps you make more informed decisions.

Even though boys tend to outperform girls in math and science classes, girls might be better at using long division to estimate the value of Pi. New research suggests that girls’ verbal skills make them better at arithmetic.

Pi was calculated by Archimedes in ancient Greece, and five hundred years later the Chinese mathematician Zu Chongzhi, who knew nothing about Archimedes’ work, also calculated Pi. But what is it about mathematical thinking that makes it consistent across cultures? Véronique Izard, an APS Rising Star, is looking for the answers.

For the serious statistician: enjoy a Pi Day chuckle with “Bayesians Caught Smuggling Priors Into Rotterdam Harbor.”

If you’re thinking of celebrating Pi Day with a pie (pizza or otherwise), eat like the French rather than Americans. Psychological scientists who observed patrons at eateries in the US and France say French food may be fattier than American food, but the French eat smaller portions. Even at Pizza Hut.

ResearchBlogging.org
Peters, E. (2012). Beyond Comprehension: The Role of Numeracy in Judgments and Decisions Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21 (1), 31-35 DOI: 10.1177/0963721411429960

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