No Pi for You
The other morning, March 14 to be precise, I saw a posting on Facebook from a math teacher friend that said: Happy Pi Day! I thought of mathematicians around the world toasting their cleverness in creating a day (3/14) to celebrate Pi, the number that is 3.14 . . . But then I realized that this day would sadly be champagne-free throughout most of the math world (and by almost all of the real world too, although for other reasons).
In Spain and in most of the world aside from the U.S., the Philippines, Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, Canada and Belize, the 14th of March is in fact written as 14/3.
But don’t feel too sad for the European math nerds (and I mean this in the nicest way possible, after all I am a huge nerd in my own right) – apparently they’re so clever that their Pi Day is celebrated in July for some number that I couldn’t even begin to understand that’s divisible by or a multiple of Pi – I think.
How did we in the U.S. (and those other select countries) get this date writing so backwards? Well, at least some good has come of it – math students of all ages have had the opportunity to eat pie and pizza pie in math class once a year. I don’t ever remember celebrating Pi Day in my math classes, although I’m pretty sure it’s because I never ascended to a level high enough where Pi was discussed. Sadly, while researching Pi Day (see, I told you I was a huge nerd) I found the real reason why I may have never had the opportunity to celebrate it in school – it’s only been around for 25 years – okay, now I feel old.
This conflict in date writing can create some confusion when living between two cultures.
For a while after moving here I would do a double take when buying milk (and that’s besides the fact that it’s not refrigerated – but that’s another story for another day). I had to stop and think when checking out the expiration dates. I found this so amusing that a month after arriving here, in November 2011 I took a photo of some milk cartons. At first glance, it looked like the milk had already expired, as the date showed 11-01-12. The American in me wanted to go running to complain to a manager or buy it and sue someone for emotional distress and physical harm. But the expat side of me took control and realized that the expiration date was actually January 11, 2012.
There is a race coming up here sponsored by the department store El Corte Inglés and I’m wondering if some might miss the big day. All around town there are stands where you can sign up and the awnings are draped with the race’s date: 7/4. So while those in the know are preparing for a race on April 7, others may still be stuffing their gullets with donuts laughing at all of the time they have to prepare for the race in July. They may even think how awesome it will be to celebrate America’s Independence Day with a race around Barcelona.