ONE of the nicest and mysterious numbers of the world is pi (Greek letter π), known for almost 4,000 years. Welsh mathematician William Jones in 1706 first used the Greek letter pi. The symbol was later popularised in 1737 by Swiss mathematician and physicist Leonhard Euler. Since then, pi has been widely used in diverse fields by engineers, physicists, architects, designers, etc.
Physicist Larry Shaw in 1988 associated Pi Day with March 14 because the numerical date 3.14 represents the first three digits of pi. It also happens to be Albert Einstein’s birthday in 1879. The first Pi Day celebrations took place at Shaw’s place of work, San Francisco-based science museum, in 2009. However, it became an official national holiday when the US House of Representatives passed legislation. Mathematicians, scientists and teachers hope the holiday will help to increase interest in mathematics and science worldwide.
The most accurate calculation of pi before computers was done in 1945 by DF Ferguson. He calculated up to 620 digits. In 2002, super computer found 1.24 trillion digits by spending 400 hours.
The 40th general conference of UNESCO on November 26, 2019 approved the Proclamation of March 14 as International Day of Mathematics. The international official launch is scheduled to take place for the first time in Paris at the UNESCO Headquarters on March 13, 2020.
The International Mathematics Union, an international non-governmental and non-profit scientific organisation, with the purpose of promoting international cooperation in mathematics, decided the theme of ‘Mathematics is Everywhere’ as for the day of 2020.
The major goals of the day, with expected benefits for students, teachers, women and girls and society, is to improve understanding among the general public and decision makers of the importance of mathematics in education.
‘Mathematics makes our lives easier because there is mathematics in everything,’ says Professor Adewale Solarin, president of the African Mathematical Union.
Education is the most powerful weapon which can be used to change the world and mathematics is an essential part of it.
International Day of Mathematics is an opportunity to explain and celebrate the essential role that mathematics and mathematics education play in breakthroughs in science and technology, improving the quality of life, empowering women and girls, and contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda of the United Nations.
It tries to improve understanding among the general public and decision-makers of the importance of mathematics as a tool for developments (SDG9). It contributes to capacity building in mathematical and scientific education, with special focus on girls and children from developing countries (SDG4). It emphasises the importance of basic research in mathematical sciences as the seed to breakthroughs in technology and the management of society (SDG8). It highlights the role of mathematics in the organisation of modern society such as economics, financial, health and transport systems, telecommunications in the quest for human well-being, etc (SDG3). It raises awareness of the role of mathematics in fighting disasters, epidemics, emerging diseases (SDG11). It highlights the role of mathematics in moving to a circular economy of sustainability compatible with preservation of biodiversity (SDG14 and 15). And it increases international networking and collaborations in public awareness of mathematics.
Mathematics is everywhere in science and technology. A few examples are: medical imaging devices like CT scan, MRI builds images of numerical data through mathematical algorithms; the decoding of the human genome is a triumph of mathematics, statistics and computer science; mathematics gave us the first photo of black hole and the solar system; cryptography for secure communication relies on Number Theory and Group Theory; and artificial intelligence and machine learning are now transforming the world.
Mathematics is everywhere in the organisation of the civilisation. A few examples are: mathematics is used to optimise transport, communications network and the management of health, economics and social systems; mathematics helps to understand and control the spread of epidemics; statistics and optimisation are used in efficient planning; mathematics helps to design electoral system that better represents the people’s will; mathematics helps to understand the risks of natural disasters.
Mathematics is essential to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals. A few examples are: mathematics is used to model the global changes and their consequences on biodiversity; mathematics education empowers girls and women to a better future; mathematics is useful in budgeting; mathematics makes pension system sustainable; and precise weather forecasting comes from an atmospheric models and more powerful algorithms.
Dr Md Shahidul Islam, a professor of mathematics in the University of Dhaka, is convener of the International Day of Mathematics Celebrations Committee 2020 and vice-president of the Bangladesh Mathematical Society.
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