"American Pi"

(new lyrics by Lawrence Mark Lesser
may be sung to the tune of" American Pie," by Don McLean)
in The Mathematics Teacher May 2000

Chorus: Find, find the value of pi, starts 3 point 1 4 1 5 9. Good ol' boys gave it a try, but the decimal never dies, the decimal never dies. ... In the Hebrew Bible we do see the circle ratio appears as three, And the Rhind Papyrus does report four-thirds to the fourth, & 22 sevenths Archimedes found with polygons was a good upper bound. The Chinese got it really keen: three-five-five over one thirteen! More joined the action with arctan series and continued fractions. In the seventeen hundreds, my oh my, the English coined the symbol pi, Then Lambert showed it was a lie to look for rational pi. He started singing. ..(Repeat chorus) Late eighteen-hundreds, Lindemann shared why a circle can't be squared But there's no tellin' some people- can't pop their bubble with Buffon's needle, Like the country doctor who sought renown from a new "truth" he thought he found. The Indiana Senate floor read his bill that made pi four. That bill got through the House with a vote unanimous! But in the end the statesmen sighed, "It's not for us to decide," So the bill was left to die like the quest for rational pi. They started singing. ..(Repeat chorus) That doctor's pi in the sky dreams may not look so extreme If you take a look back: math'maticians long thought that Deductive systems could be complete and there was one true geometry. Now in these computer times, we test the best machines to find pi to a billion places that so far lack pattern's traces. It's great when we can truly see math as human history- That adds curiosity. ..easy as pi! Let's all try singing. ..(Repeat chorus)