This site provides an extensive and cross-linked history of the development of pi and the mathematicians associated with it. It includes some open questions about pi, a list of other resources, and some related Web sites. This site is a subpage of the MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive that is reviewed separately in MERLOT.
To present the historical development of the value of pi and its computation, and to develop interest in its characteristics.
Target Student Population:
High school and college math students.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
General knowledge of circles and their properties. Knowledge of trigonometry and sequences/series to fully appreciate some sections.
Type of Material:
Student exploration or enrichment.
Standard Web browser.
Evaluation and Observation
The material is thorough and well-referenced and documented with links to a large number of early mathematicians whose work involved pi. The level of discussion is fairly sophisticated in places and includes mathematical proofs rather than just history. The material on series approximations for pi is of particular interest, along with the material on Buffons Needle experiment. Another especially nice feature is an annotated chronology of calculations for pi that includes both pre and post computer entries.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
The materials are well-written and accessible to all high school and college math students. The open questions would possibly interest math majors or professional mathematicians; the MathFAQ site listed as a related Web site provides details on how to calculate pi. The many cross-links to other mathematicians provide thumbnail sketches of their lives and links to a number of related materials; this makes for very interesting reading for students and serves to introduce them to the rich collection of mathematical biographies available on the parent website.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
No technical difficulties were encountered in the use of this site. The material flows easily and has a large number of links for further study.
A few of the external links in Other Web Sites were inactive, viz., J. Gephart, J. Borwein, and MathSoft.