APSU’s math department engages students with Pi Day celebration
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. - Austin Peay State University’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics celebrated Pi Day in style on March 14 at the Maynard Mathematics and Computer Science Building with free pies, coffee and themed activities.
Pi, represented by the Greek letter π, is used in mathematics to represent the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. The number has been calculated to approximately 3.14, which made March 14 a perfect opportunity for Austin Peay to reach out to its students.
“It’s important for student success to feel like you’re part of the University,” Dr. Jackie Vogel, chair of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, said. “This is a way for our students to be able to talk to professors in a casual setting and be more involved. Doing things like reading about where pi comes from or telling jokes about it shows the fun side of math. It doesn’t all have to be hard and difficult; it can actually be enjoyable.”
Faculty and staff from across the math department worked to set up the event as part of the University’s CoSTEM Coffee program. Each month, a different department within the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics hosts a social to bring community members together.
“I was actually doing office hours with my professor, came by to see Dr. Vogel and happened to stumble upon Pi Day,” said Crystal Coates, sophomore math major. “I think it’s really valuable to get these types of interactions with our professors in a comfortable place, and it also lets us connect with our peers in our majors.”
Attendees were also able to meet students and professors from other departments, which were well-represented at the event.
“One reason I’m here is to help support the math department, and I also wanted to catch up with some of my favorite professors,” April Torres, a graduate student in the computer science and quantitative methods program, said. “It’s been really nice because it means I’m not just a student in a classroom; I can have personal talks with people in the department outside of class.”
Dr. Jennifer Yantz, professor and graduate coordinator for mathematics instruction, said Pi Day was an opportunity to strengthen relationships across the University’s College of STEM.
“We work with the faculty in other departments on a lot of committees and sometimes we do research together, but we rarely have time to see each other in social situations,” she said. “Sometimes through conversations like this we learn that we’re doing something similar and find opportunities to collaborate, or we get inspired by something another professor is doing … it lets us share ideas in a very relaxed environment.”
Other faculty members like Masum Bhuiyan, assistant professor, were able to highlight course options like the math department’s upcoming data science minor. Bhuiyan said the University will offer the program beginning in Fall 2024.
“This is a good opportunity to interact with students and faculty so that we can tell them about our majors, concentrations and educational benefits,” he said. “At Pi Day we can tell our students about our data science program, which benefits not only our math students but those who may be majoring in physics or chemistry so that they can minor in data science.”
The festivities continued into the math department’s advising lunch, with free “pizza pi” and drinks available to students before they met with professors to prepare for class registration.
“Everything has gone very smoothly,” Vogel said. “I like to see people standing around talking and socializing, and CoSTEM Coffee in general brings people together from across campus. There are people from other areas of STEM that we don’t get to see very often, so this allows them to come over and visit with us.”