If you have the kind of Facebook or Twitter newsfeed that I have, you have likely figured out that March 14, 2015 is pretty darned special. And at 9:26 a.m., there’s even more reason to celebrate. That exact time is the ultimate for us math geeks who are also fond of π. If you write this date and time using only numbers (and strategically placing a decimal point to the right of 3), you get:


And that’s the longest expression of pi we’ve seen in 100 years on Pi Day.

So forget making pies. We here at Math for Grownups are going to be celebrating bigger! And better! From today through midnight on Pi Day (that’s this Saturday, by the way), you’ll have a chance to win great prizes!

π Plates

I’m thrilled to partner with Uncommon Goods, one of my most favorite online retailers for unique gifts and crafts, to offer one lucky winner a set of these clever pie plates. (“i eight sum pi,” they say.)


I designed this shirt just for this celebration. You’ll want to remember this momentous occasion — you know, share it with your grandchildren. The t-shirt is 100% cotton, and you can order it in standard or ladies cut.


Have a little Pi Day with your coffee or tea? Sip away, while letting your math geek flag fly!

Math for Grownups and Math for Writers

Of course, some lucky winner will take home one of my books Math for Grownups or Math for Writers.

Free Online Learning

And last, but not least, I’ll be offering one person the opportunity to take my new online course, “Stats for Writers,” at no charge.

So how can you win? If you already receive my newsletter, you are already in the drawing. If you’re haven’t signed up? Just complete the form below. After midnight on March 14, I’ll have my computer randomly select the winners. I’ll post their names here and contact them directly.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up for my bi-weekly newsletter, and get a bonus, just because! My guide to overcoming math anxiety: Multiply Your Math Moxie: A Painless Guide to Overcoming Math Anxiety.

Let’s get this Pi Day party started! Sign up below!

As you know, this is the first week of Math Awareness Month. But what you may not have realized yet is that I am hosting a contest on the Math for Grownups Facebook page. Each day I give a Math Treasure Hunt clue. The object is to notice that math-related something or concept and then post about it under the clue. At the end of the week, I’ll randomly select one winner from all of the entries. That person will get either a copy of Math for Grownups or a gift card. The details are here.

There were some really cool entries, so I thought I’d share them here.

Monday: A prism — This clue turned out to be a bit tougher than I expected, and that’s because I didn’t consider the different definitions of prism. I meant a polyhedron made up of polygons; in other words, a cube or a box. But the entries really focused on a solid that refracts light. This is often a triangular prism or a polyhedron made up of two triangles and three quadrilaterals. But sometimes these prisms are not geometric prisms at all but may be pyramids.

Tuesday: A percent — Much easier! Here are a few examples that you gave:

I ate 2% of my Daily Total Fat with my shredded wheat this morning.

My daughter is in virtual school and she has completed 77% of her math curriculum for the 2011-2012 school year. We are counting the percent points until summer. 🙂

‎0% chance of precipitation this afternoon means we might get to go to the playground!

Wednesday: A bar graph

Checked out a review of “Mirror, Mirror” online and found the reviews listed as a bar graph by A,B,C,D,F grades. Made it easy to see that the reviews so far give it a pretty average grade. Went to see it and would have given it a B.

I’m teaching about gender work and family in my intro sociology class this month. Here is a link to a bar graph and story that explains class differences in access to parental leave

Thursday: An improper fraction — Yep, this is a toughie. No entries yet — want to be first? In an improper fraction the numerator (the number on top) is larger than the denominator (the number on the bottom). Now can you find one?

Friday (today): Multiplication by a two-digit number — Be the first to enter today!

This week’s chance to win ends at midnight tonight. FAQ:

1. Can you go back and answer questions from earlier in the week? Yes!

2. Can you respond more than once to one clue? Yes!

3. Can you tell everyone you know about the contest? Why yes!

4. Can you make this a project for your home-schooled or classroom kids? Yep! (Just be sure that anyone entering is allowed to be on Facebook.)

Have fun with this contest. Notice the math around you. Learn a couple of things. And share these with everyone.

Do you have ideas for this contest? Drop me a line or share them in the comments section.

I say “dodecahedron,” you say “soccer ball.” (Okay, so a soccer ball is a sphere, but I would count it for a dodecahedron, too.) (Photo courtesy of ElvertBarnes)

How can you win a copy of Math for Grownups (or if you already have one, some other cool prize)? Check out the details for the Math Treasure Hunt contest below.

1. Each day on the Math for Grownups Facebook page, I’ll post a status update that features something you should find — like π or a prism or an improper fraction — in your everyday life. Once you notice this math-related something, post about it under the status update.  Here’s an example:

Math Treasure Hunt Clue: A negative number (example: -4, -723, -1/2)

“On today’s weather report, the weekend forecast shows -4 degrees F for Saturday.”

(God help anyone who sees that forecast in April!)

2. Here are a few extra hints and rules:

If someone else has already posted the exact same sighting, don’t post it again. (If the clue is π, and someone has already posted that cute little cartoon about π and i, don’t post it again. Or if the clue is an octagon, and someone posts that they saw a stop sign, that one is off limits to everyone else.) So it pays to check out the clues early. It also pays to be creative.

Want to include photos? That’s great! Think it’s okay to simply scour the internet to find an example? Nope. If I think you’re stretching, your post won’t count. (And I won’t necessarily tell you. That’s the former high school teacher in me. Meaner than a snake.)

Share your stories about what you noticed. Were you surprised? Was it something you saw or heard every day but didn’t connect with math? It’s much more fun and interesting if we hear a little bit about the thought behind your choice.

3. I’ll post a new clue each day, Monday through Friday. You can post as many discoveries as you’d like, but each one must be unique. (No fair posting the same one 253 times.)

4. For each post you make, you’ll be entered into the contest one time. If you post one unique and appropriate response each day, you’ll have five entries. If you post 15 times in a week (all unique posts, ya’ll!), you’ll be entered into the weekly contest 15 times.

5. It doesn’t matter when you post what you’ve found — just as long as you do it before Friday at midnight EDT, when each weekly contest ends.  So if you want to post all of your findings at one time on Friday, that’s fine. Or you can play along daily. Just make sure that your weekly entries are in before Friday at midnight EDT.

6. Each weekend, I’ll randomly select one entry from all of posts made that week. And that’ll be our winner!

7. The next Monday, the contest starts all over again, with a new winner selected at the end of the week.

Got it? Ask questions, if you’ve got ’em. And keep your eyes peeled!

On Tuesday, I appeared on Midday with Dan Rodricks, an hour-long, call-in radio program on Baltimore’s WYPR.  At the top of the show, Dan asked listeners to solve a real-world math problem.  (Download the program here, to hear the entire show and what problem he offered.)  I was so surprised at the number of people who called or emailed in with their answers — they loved it!  So I thought I’d try it here on my blog.

Welcome to my first Math for Grownups contest!  Here’s the background.

Maybe you’ve seen this image on Facebook or somewhere else on the web:

Get it? Funny, huh?

There are so many different ways that this fellow could have represented $536.49, and I think this is one of the misunderstood beauties of math.  We were often taught that there is only one way to do a problem — but for the most part, there are many, many different ways to arrive at the correct answer.

And that’s the beauty of being grownups.  We get to choose our own paths, right?

And here are the contest deets:

How would you have expressed $536.49?  Get creative.  Get complicated if you want.  The only catch is what you describe has to equal approximately $536.49 (in other words, rounded to the nearest 10th or cent).

Here’s an example: (67 x 8 ) + (0.7)^2.  (^2 means “squared,” which I use because it’s not easy to use superscripts in these blog posts.)

And here are the rules:

1.  Post your response in the comments section here or on the Math for Grownups facebook page, by Monday, October 24 at midnight EDT.

2.  Your response must be unique.  That means, you must read through the other responses before posting yours.  If there are two or more comments with the same correct response, I will accept only the first response.

3.  You can respond up to five times.

4. The winner will be chosen randomly from all of the correct responses.  (In other words, if your math doesn’t work out, your name will not be entered into the drawing.)

5.  If you have five correct answers, your name will be entered five times.

6. One winner will receive a signed copy of Math for Grownups and a Starbucks gift card valued at $[(4 x 2) – (8-10)].  (Figure that out!)

7.  I will contact the winner for his or her address so that I can send out the gift card.

Good luck!