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American Pi - Introduction

Larry Lesser

In honor of 2006 being the 300th anniversary of the use of the sixteenth lowercase letter from the Greek alphabet to stand for the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, I share the following special version of my “American Pi” song for your Pi Day celebrations!  Additional suggestions for celebration are in Lesser (2004).   

The chorus can be used by itself just to give students a powerful way (in only 15 seconds) to remember the first 6 significant figures, and whose verses give even your advanced students plenty of points of departure for mathematics and mathematics history enrichment!  Earlier versions of “American Pi” originally appeared in Lesser (2000) and in Posamentier and Lehmann (2004).  The melody of this song has been on the charts across generations – in 2000 by Madonna, and a #1 hit in 1971 by Don McLean.    We know many math teachers and math clubs around the country have written their own pi songs, such as (Lewellen 1987) who uses a melody literally generated by pi’s opening digits!



Lesser, Larry. “Slices of Pi: Rounding Up Ideas for Celebrating Pi Day.” Texas Mathematics Teacher, 51 (Fall 2004): 6-11.  (the issue is also available at

Lesser, Lawrence Mark. “Sum of Songs: Making Mathematics Less Monotone!” Mathematics Teacher, 93 (May 2000): 372-377.

Lewellen, Hester.  “Sing pi” [Reader Reflections letter]. Mathematics Teacher, 80 (April 1987): 264.

Posamentier, Alfred S. and Ingmar Lehmann. Pi: A Biography of the World’s Most Mysterious Number. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2004.


Larry Lesser, "American Pi - Introduction," Loci (July 2007)