More than any of my math songs, this one has gone through (and been published in) many versions (thanks to helpful suggestions by folks like Art Benjamin—thanks, Art!) so this version may differ from the one in the journal you happen to be looking at, but it’s my favorite one so far:

“American Pi”
lyric  1997- 2007 Lawrence Mark Lesser; all rights reserved
May be sung to the tune of Don McLean’s “American Pie”


A long, long time ago I can still remember

How that mathematics made me smile.

And I knew if I had my chance, I would ace geometry class

And make my parents happy for a while.


But some math books made me shiver--

Facts on tablets, all delivered:

Nothing past the rational,

And nothing transcendental.


I can’t remember if I cried,

Reading 3 point 1 4 1 5 9…..

But something touched me deep inside

The day I learned of pi…so:

      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 Bible we do see the circle ratio appears as three,

Or a little more....

That genius Archimedes found with polygons, an upper bound

Of 22 sevenths for sure!

The Chinese got it really keen: three-five-five over one thirteen!

More joined the action with arctan series and continued fractions.

In the 1700’s, my oh my, the English coined the symbol π,

Then Lambert showed it was a lie to look for rational pi.

He started singing   ..........    

          Find, find the value of pi

          Twice 11 over 7 is a mighty fine try

          A good ol’ fraction you might hope to supply,

          But the decimal never dies,    the decimal never dies.


Late 1800’s, Lindemann shared    why a circle can’t be squared

But some folks tried anyway--

Like the Indiana doctor who said pi was 4 or 3.2

And thought his proof should be a law someday.

The Indiana congressmen

Discussed his paper there and then

A bill got through the House     by 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  ........  

          Find, find the value of pi

          Buffon’s needle popped the bubble of that ol’ doctor’s try

          A good ol’ fraction could not be supplied

          ‘Cause the decimal never dies,    the decimal never dies.


That doctor’s pi in the sky dreams may not look so extreme

‘Cause we long believed

Deductive systems could be complete and there was one true geometry.

But now there’s more we see

In these computer times, we test the best machines to find

pi to a trillion 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.....        

          Find, find the value of pi

          3 point 1 4 1 5 9 2 6 5 3 5 8 9...

          A good ol’ fraction you might hope to define

          But the decimal never dies,     the decimal never dies.


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