I Spy a Nickname - All About Pi

I Spy a Nickname - All About Pi

by Maureen Welcker
February 20, 2019

Have you ever had a nickname? Or have you ever known someone with a nickname? Below are a few names with popular nicknames associated with them. Some of these nicknames may be familiar to you.

Alexander – Alex
Benjamin—Ben
Christopher—Chris
Nicolas—Nick
Samuel – Sam
Barbara—Barb
Elizabeth—Liz, Betty, Bette, Beth, Liza, Lizzie...
Jennifer—Jen
Katherine—Kate
Rebecca – Becky

Among other reasons, we give people nicknames to shorten long names, to help with speaking or writing a name, or to make a difficult or unusual name easier to say or remember. Take a look at this long list of numbers.

3.14159265358979323846264338327950288419716939937510582097494459230781640628
6208998628034825342117067982148086513282306647093844609550582231725359408128481117
4502841027019385211055596446229489549303819644288109756659334461284756482337867831
6527120190914564856692346034861045432664821339360726024914127372458700660631558817
4881520920962829254091715364367892590360011330530548820466521384146951941511609433
0572703657595919530921861173819326117931051185480744623799627495673518857527248912
2793818301194912983367336244065664308602139494639522473719070217986094370277053921
7176293176752384674818467669405132000568127145263560827785771342757789609173637178
7214684409012249534301465495853710507922796892589235420199561121290219608640344181
5981362977477130996051870721134999999837297804995105973173281609631859502445945534
6908302642522308253344685035261931188171010003137838752886587533208381420617177669
1473035982534904287554687311595628638823537875937519577818577805321712268066130019
27876611195909216420198

These numbers represent only the FIRST 1,000 numbers of π. π is an irregular number, which means its numbers go on and on forever and will not repeat in any sort of pattern. If anything needed a nickname, it is π!

In the early 1700s people did just that. This very long number was given a Greek nickname by some mathematicians and other scientists who began using the Greek letter pi to refer to this constant ratio. A few decades later, π was introduced as it is the symbol for the Greek word for “perimeter”.

Why Greek? The Greeks were some of the first experts in the study of geometry (a type of math that studies the size, shape, and position of figures like circles) so many geometry terms in English come from Greek. The nickname given by some mathematicians and other scientists at the time began using the Greek letter pi to refer to this constant ratio.

Interestingly, Legos got their unusual name in much the same fashion as π. Legos were first made in Denmark and thus given a Danish nickname. Lego is actually an abbreviation of the two Danish words “leg godt”, meaning “play well”.

******

This is the third in our series of Pi Day activities and resources created by STEMstitute.  Be sure to check out Finding Pi Around the House, Make a Pi Necklace, and Pie for Pi Day!




Maureen Welcker

Maureen Welcker is the owner of STEMstitute, an organization committed to showing kids and families how the fun of STEM is connected to just about every area of our lives. She adventures in Boise, Idaho with her husband and three children.


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