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A while back I turned Leo on to American Pie, which I consider to be perhaps the greatest folk song ever written — lyricwise, anyway — and it’s a pretty good tune too! (Okay, next to Tangled Up in Blue … and Kashmir … and … oh never mind!)

Meanwhile, of course I’ve been teaching him about \pi and e. (Ugh! How the heck do you get these latex math equations to come out nicely?!)

Coincidentally, there is a song called “Mathematical Pi”, which you can find sung variously on Youtube.

So now Leo goes around singing it.

Coincidentally, a couple of week ago Art Benjamin, a terrific “mathemagician” from Harvey Mudd college performed for a tiny audience at a Bay Area Gifted Homeschooler’s event. I knew Art when he was a CMU undergraduate and I was a grad student; one of my advisors, Bill Chase, was studying Art’s lightening math skills. But I haven’t seen him in probably 30 years. You really MUST watch his Ted talk!; he’s amazing, and his enthusiasm for math is infectious!

Of course, one of the things that Art does it to spill out a hundred-or-so digits of \pi. What I hadn’t expected, is that Art actually wrote the Pi song that Leo had been singing! Actually, this isn’t quite true. There have been several versions of Pi songs set to American Pie, and it turns out that Art didn’t write the version that Leo had been watching, and singing. Nontheless, when Art performed his version of the song in his performance, I was nearly in tears (even though, by his own admission, Art’s a much better mathemagician than singer! 🙂 ). And after the show I went up and asked whether Art would sign the page that he had used to write out part of Pi, for Leo, to which Art kindly obliged:


(Leo can only reliably do about 3.14159, and then gets confused. But I haven’t really push memorization. I care much more that he understands what \pi is used for then that he happens to know a bunch of digits. He does know that it never repeats, although I’m sure that he doesn’t understand the deep mathematical implications of that fact. We’ll get to those when he’s 6. 🙂 )