A Pi Day for a New Decade

It may be typical for mathematicians to consider their vocation as beautiful, elegant, and mesmerizing. But to the average person, especially for children, being able to appreciate math is a like riding a unicycle---it implies mastery before getting enjoyment out of it. 

But on Mar 14, also celebrated as Pi Day, ICIAM President Ya-xiang Yuan hoped to kindle public appreciation and raise awareness for the “science of sciences”. 

Apart from being the first Pi Day for a new decade, Saturday also marked the first annual International Day of Mathematics proclaimed by UNESCO in November 2019. 

The theme for 2020 IDM is “mathematics is everywhere”, with aims of showcasing the fundamental role mathematical sciences play in achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and promoting gender and education equality, especially in developing countries. 

“Mathematics is the bedrock of many scientific disciplines,” Yuan said in an online lecture for elementary and middle school students on Saturday. The lecture, viewed by more than 110,000 people on Saturday, was organized by the China Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (CSIAM) and supported by the Chinese Mathematical Society (CMS) and the Operations Research Society of China (ORSC).

During the two-hour lecture, Yuan demonstrated “mathematics is everywhere” by giving examples in various fields, he shared anecdotes, quotes, ingenious equations and the colorful stories behind their discoveries, presenting mathematics as a complex but intriguing subject full of beauty, truth and wisdom. 

The young audience learned the magic of mathematics from some classic famous example such as Goldbach conjecture, Buffon needle problem and Mobius strip, and got a sense of why so many brilliant minds across the world have been captivated by mathematics for centuries, from Aristotle to Einstein, from Kepler to Euler……

“To instill an interest in math in elementary students, parents must show their children the fun side of math. Math problems should be like a puzzle or a game, not homework,” he said. 

“Math is a lifestyle, a way of thinking. If we are good at math, then our minds will be good at being rational, objective and logic,” he said. “I really hope the public can care about and love mathematics.” 

The CSIAM will continue to host a series of popular online lectures to bring math closer to the public. On Mar 7, the organization held the first lecture of the series: the integration of data science and applied math presented by Pingwen Zhang, CSIAM’s President. 


Yan Guiying

Guiying YAN is a professor at the Academy of Mathematics and Systems Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). She received her PhD from Shandong University. She is a Vice-President of National Center for Mathematics and Interdisciplinary Sciences.