Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Square Root Day

It must be a slow news day, because I have seen from about five different sources that today is a rare "Square Root Day." The month and date are numbered the same and multiply out to the last two digits of the year. This happens nine times each century. I made a quick activity to do in class about the...well, phenomenon, I guess, even though it's really just a coincidence of the calendar. It's like when people thought the end of the world was coming from supernatural sources on January 1, 2000, when we humans were the ones who developed and (several times) corrected the calendar. I heard the same tripe when June 6, 2006 rolled around because it was 6/6/06. Unless the devil provided Pope Gregory XIII with a blueprint for destruction when the latter redesigned the calendar in 1582, it's just happenstance. It's just funny to watch people fall over themselves because of the occasional study in numerology that a calendar provides.

We do the same kind of math geeky thing with Pi Day on March 14. I don't really know why. Doesn't it kind of defeat the purpose of teaching kids that pi is an irrational number by celebrating on 3/14? Most of my 8th graders currently think that pi is 3.14, a terminating decimal anyway, and Pi Day just kind of reinforces that misconception. One of the things our school has done in the past is to make a long chain of decimal places of pi that are posted all the way around the building, surely wasting an entire day by each person contributing one number. By the time they're done the student has drawn a number on a piece of paper, and we have pi approximated to six hundred places. I'm not sure how useful that is to know and I'm not sure which Indiana math standard that applies to, but who am I to stand in the way of fun? Maybe it's a good thing that March 14 falls on a Saturday this year.

Oh, no! That means we'll celebrate on Friday the 13th!

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