Students, teachers get messy celebrating Pi Day

Contest marks end of seventh-graders unit on geometry

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Seventh-grader Molly Weiss stood in front of her peers Thursday in the Steamboat Springs Middle School cafetorium, looked to the back of the room, and began reciting.

"Three-point-one-four-one-five-nine-two ... " Weiss began. An amazing 70 digits of pi later, Weiss' memory failed her.

"That's all I know," she said.

Impressive, but Weiss -- along with eight other finalists -- fell well short of fellow seventh-grader Erin Lewis, who won the competition by reciting 182 of pi's infinite numerals.

The contest was part of seventh-grade Pi Day, a culmination of the geometry unit the students have been learning.

It also served as a mini-celebration of mathematician Albert Einstein's birthday, March 14, which happens to be the first three digits of pi -- 3.14.

"We wanted them to come away with the knowledge that no matter how large or small the circle, the comparison of its diameter to its circumference is always 3.14," seventh-grade math teacher Kerry Kerrigan said.

Pi Day is celebrated in schools around the nation, but Thursday marked the middle school's first year of participation.

In fitting fashion, teams of students brought more than 50 pies of a different kind, sugary sweet desserts, to cap off the day.

But it was one particular pie that caused an uproar among the school's seventh-graders -- the one that Lewis got to smash into a teacher's face in honor of her feat.

Lewis chose world history teacher Bruce Wenzlau as her cream pie victim -- and her peers loved every second of it.

High-pitched shrieks and baritone howls exploded throughout the cafetorium as the whipped-cream pie was pushed into Wenzlau's face.

"He's always kind of picking on us in a way," Lewis said to justify her selection. "It was kind of fun because I didn't want to do (math teacher) Mrs. Nilsen or (science teacher) Mrs. Lorenz. He actually tried to pay me to get Mrs. Nilsen."

As to her memorization feat, Lewis said it took about a week to memorize the 182 numerals of pi she recited.

"I have a good short-term memory, not a good long-term one," she said. "I say in about two weeks I'll forget all of them."

She still has some work to do if she'd like to set the pi memory record of 42,000 digits, set by a Japanese student.

But in all likelihood, Lewis will be content with her gift certificate for a free Pizza Hut pizza and the enduring memory of Wenzlau wiping his face clean of whipped cream.

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