XJTLU celebrates Pi Day by playing with maths

March 22, 2024

On 13 March, XJTLU’s School of Mathematics and Physics celebrated the International Day of Mathematics (IDM), also known as Pi Day. The event, themed “Play with Maths”, featured mathematical puzzles and games and attracted nearly one hundred students and staff.

Dr Gang Liu, Deputy Dean of the School of Mathematics and Physics, and Dr Jinsong Xu, Assistant Professor at the Department of Pure Mathematics, hosted the event.

Engaging minds with games

Students tried out games and puzzles that demonstrated the beauty of mathematical thinking and problem-solving, including Buffon’s needle problem, the art gallery problem, a mathematical coloring game, Eulerian paths, the 15 Puzzle, and the Tower of Hanoi.

Students playing the 15 Puzzle

Students playing the Tower of Hanoi

Yixiang Fei, a Year Three BSc Applied Mathematics student, said playing the games gave him the sense that maths is not abstract, but relates to the details of everyday life.

“These maths games are not only interesting but also accessible. I could feel the mathematical principles behind them when I was playing the games, and some of the games in this event were more innovative and not quite the same as some I have played before,” he said.

Sangni Zhang, a Year Two BSc Applied Mathematics student, said she was excited that she solved the 15 Puzzle for the first time, and by playing the mathematical coloring game, she consolidated knowledge she learned in the classroom.

Maths for all

Students from other programmes also learned about maths by playing the games.

Yuzhuo Jin, a Year Three BEng Architecture student, discovered that many maths games do not require a deep foundation in the subject, but instead are an exercise in thinking.

“I easily solved the art gallery problem and the Fortress Problem, finding the optimal solutions,” he said. “This activity made me start looking at problems from a mathematical perspective again, rediscovering how fascinating maths can be.”

Students solving puzzles

Dr Xu said the event’s purpose is to encourage more students to participate in mathematics so they can experience its charm, and to stimulate their interests in learning mathematics.

“The event allowed XJTLU students to exercise their minds, and fostered their mathematical thinking through the games,” he said.

This is the first outdoor activity organised by the School of Mathematics and Physics for the IDM, which UNESCO proclaimed to be 14 March every year. The International Mathematical Union, a group dedicated to promoting international cooperation in mathematics, annually calls on individuals, schools and organisations to celebrate the day. IMAGINARY, a non-profit organization that communicates modern mathematics, hosts the IDM website.

By Ziyou Zhu

Translated by Qinru Liu

Edited by Xinmin Han and Tamara Kaup

Photos by Qinru Liu

Materials provided by Dr Jinsong Xu

March 22, 2024