I’ve decided there’s not enough math in my life.
As an author, I deal in words, artwork, character development, and plotlines–but I’m rarely if ever called on to solve a quadratic equation. Perhaps once a year, when I hit that one line item on the income tax form where you have to solve for x2+3x-7 and put the result in Box 32, and even then I use a program that does the heavy lifting for me.
It wasn’t always that way, though. Back in elementary school, I loved math. I loved math even more than I loved writing stories. I gave myself bonus questions to solve because it was such a disappointment when my homework assignments ended. Math and I were best buds until 7th grade, when math, completely unprovoked, suddenly started to punch me in the face on a regular basis. Algebra. Geometry. Trig. Calculus. Math jabbed me with blow after blow until I gave up the fight and enrolled in law school, where math is statutorily barred from the building.
But every once in a while, I miss my old friendship with math. Especially at this time of year. March 14th–3.14–is also known as Pi Day, when the date resembles history’s most famous transcendental number.
I’d love to review all the dozens of pi-themed novels on my bookshelf, but the closest thing I have is Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi, and that book doesn’t actually contain much math, unless you count Pi’s calculation of a safe circumference around a waterlogged tiger. Likewise, Number the Stars by Lois Lowry and The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen both have a lot less math (and more Nazis) than you would imagine from their titles.
Instead, celebrate Pi Day by checking out the middle grade “Do the Math” series by Wendy Lichtman. For older readers there are math-focused YA characters in John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines, younger readers will enjoy Jon Scieszka’s Math Curse, and adults can bake pies with a circumference-to-radius ratio of 3.14159 (hint: think round). If you have any additional suggestions, please leave them in the comments.
I’m frankly surprised that more authors haven’t turned to math for inspiration. For example, consider the fact that pi is non-terminating and non-repeating. That means it never ends and never repeats itself. If we could make a book accomplish that same feat, it would literally be impossible to put down. Ever.
If you can’t get enough of this year’s Pi Day festivities, you can start preparing for Tau Day–named for a constant with the value of roughly 6.28–coming up on June 28th. And get excited for 2015, just one year away, when we will celebrate 3/14/15 9:26:54, both AM and PM, the only two moments in an entire century represented by pi’s first ten digits.