Can You Solve NASA’s “Pi” Challenge?

And it’s not a “Pi” pie eating challenge either.

March 14 is celebrated as Pi Day and for four years straight NASA‘s Jet Propulsion Lab has created math problems that involve the use of Pi. And since non- math nerds may not know the importance of this, Pi is an irrational number. And no, that does not mean it is on its period*. It means that it’s digits are continuing and non-recurring. Pi is used in many mathematical calculations, as we all have learnt in school but JPL seeks to make students aware of the real world application of mathematics and why Pi is so important. March 14 celebrated as Pi Day because it is written as 3/14 in the US month/day format and the first few digits of Pi (3.14)

Senior education specialist at JPL and designer of the challenge, Ota Lutz, said:

Students always want to know how math is used in the real world. This problem set demonstrates the interconnectedness of science, math and engineering, providing teachers with excellent examples of cross-cutting concepts in action and students with the opportunity to solve real-world problems.

The instructions for the Pi challenge are available here. Basically there are four problems that students between sixth grade to high school must solve that are currently being solved by NASA scientists. The solved answers will be uploaded by JPL on March 16, 2017.

The four problems deal with astronomical phenomena such as craters on Mars, the shadow of an upcoming solar eclipse, the Cassini satellite orbiting Saturn and the search for exoplanets like Earth that can support life.


*I know it’s a sexist joke, but I’m a woman so it’s okay.