Happy Pi Day! To celebrate, we are going to explore the idea of Pi and storytelling. Can the infinite sequence of the number Pi tell a story? Am I nuts to even think this?
noun: the sixteenth letter of the Greek alphabet ( Π, π ), transliterated as ‘p.’
symbol: the numerical value of pi.
Newbery award winner Clare Vanderpool’s Navigating Early tells a story with Pi. And Vi Hart has a take on Pi and Shakespeare. So It Can Be Done! Let’s explore the stories that Pi tells.
Middle Grade Books With Pi
Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool
Early circled the number one. “This is Pi. And the rest of the numbers are his story. The story of Pi begins with a family. Three is his mother. She is beautiful and kind and she carried him in her heart always. Four is his father. He is strong and good. And here” — Early pointed to the number one in the middle — “this is Pi. His mother named him Polaris, but she said he would have to earn his name.”
from page 31 of Navigating Early
“See, it’s right here that he gets in his boat. These numbers, see how they look wavy, like the ocean?”
“No, they don’t look wavy. They’re just numbers. And you’re making up a story to go along with them. I get it. It’s pretty creative.”
Early balled up his fists again. “They’re not just numbers. And I’m not making up a story. The story is in the numbers. Look at them! The numbers have colors — blues of the ocean and sky, green grass, a bright-yellow sun. The numbers have texture and landscape — mountains and waves and sand and sand and storms. And words — about Pi and about his journey. The numbers tell a story. And you don’t deserve to hear it.”
from page 66 of Navigating Early
Clare Vanderpool explains how she got the story idea for Navigating Early from a dream her mother had and the plot of her award-winning chapter book.
Violet and the Pie of Life by Debra Green
From Mixed Up Files of Middle Grade Authors:
“It’s a contemporary middle grade novel with humor and heart, about a math-loving seventh grade girl named Violet Summers who uses charts, graphs, and equations to try to fix her life. She has a lot to calculate after her father leaves and she wins the part in the school play that her best friend wanted. There’s pi, pie, laughs, and a cry.” [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
Vi Hart on Pi Its Relationship to Shakespeare
Victoria Hart, commonly known as Vi Hart, is a self-described “Recreational Mathemusician” who is most known for her mathematical videos on YouTube. Here’s her take on Pi and Shakespeare along with Seven Sonnets that she wrote to explain her premise.
Are Shakespeare’s plays encoded within Pi?
The truth is: we don’t know, but we suspect
They’re somewhere in those digits. And now I
Will show why we don’t know if we’re correct.
You see, we think the digits do behave
As if they were a random sequence, and
So many mathematicians tried to brave
This question, but we still don’t understand.
Pi isn’t random: each digit must be
Exactly what the definition states.
It’s pseudo-random, far as we can see,
But it’s the subject of intense debates.
Now I’ll explain, with this parameter:
It’s all in iambic pentameter.
You may have heard of this scenario:
A thousand monkeys type at keyboards ’till
They write the works of Shakespeare.
Even though, In one life it’s a task they can’t fulfill.
If you allow their kids to carry on,
All through the generations working hard,
They will evolve before they come upon
A single sonnet written by the Bard.
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14 thoughts on “How Pi Tells Stories: Happy Pi Day!”
This is a very interesting post. Pi Day was a problem for me when the entire school was mandated to celebrate. My co-teacher and I always had to wrack our heads trying to come up with something appropriate for kindergarten.
I want to post on Pi Day every year so I queue up a blank post so as not to forget but every year it stresses me out how to find material to write something interesting. I can totally understand that challenges. I think Erica from What Do We Have All Day has a great idea for Kindergarten. They graph Pi to make a skyline.
I like that Pi Day. And, I loved Navigating Early — reviewed it last year. I didn’t see the interview with Clare Vanderpool. It was a beautiful but complex novel. Her books will classics — she is so gifted as a writer. And I enjoyed the video about the encoding of Pi in Shakespear’s plays.
Thanks so much! Clare Vanderpool is so gifted and such a nice person. I feel so lucky that she did a tour near me so I was able to meet her! She was doing a tour with Jerry Spinelli and I took my middle child, PickyKidPix, who loves to meet authors too. It’s “our thing” we do together. She loved it!
Happy Pi Day! Vi Hart is brilliant – I love her videos. And I enjoyed reading “Navigating Early” after reading about it on your blog!
Thanks so much MaryAnne,
What a happy discovery for me to find out about Vi Hart! She is wonderful and brilliant and fun! I totally agree!!!
Vi Hart is marvelous, isn’t she? I always enjoy her videos. She composed a musical piece on tau (2pi) that I liked so much I downloaded it. Will check out Navigating Early, too. I definitely believe in using pi in stories–I wrote a flash fiction once in which children give their dad a book of pi (did you know there are books of pi–just pages and pages and pages of pi) for his prognosticating.
( I’m sorry I missed your post on actual pi day, and I’m glad you retweet periodically, so I could see it now.)
I am going to use her tau video for my tau post!!! So excited! I love that you see pi as a story too!!
I’ve never heard of Pi Day until this year, but this is an awesome way to celebrate. I’m gonna have to grab some new books and make sure that my son isn’t as naive as me!
I am a nerd so I like to think about things like Pi Day but we haven’t celebrated this at home.
I’ll have to check out Navigating Early. As a lover of Math, I’m shocked I hadn’t heard of it before.
It’s a wonderful chapter book and it just won a YA award. I hope you love it too! Clare Vanderpool is such a great author!
Pi Day always reminds me of Geometry class when we had to try to see how could remember the most numbers after the 14 🙂 Very interesting to think of putting it into a story format. I had never heard about it with Shakespeare before. Thanks so much for sharing these thoughts with us at Countdown in Style!
I haven’t heard about Pi with relation to Shakespeare either. Vi Hart is really an interesting thinker and her videos are great! Thanks so much for hosting Countdown in Style!