This is another piece of flash fiction that I wrote for a contest. Just like the other piece of my flash fiction I posted, the earlier version of this story didn't win anything. Among other flaws, this story was bigger than the 650 word limit of the contest. I've expanded this one a bit to share on Pi Day.
There once was a girl named Sue. The other kids at school liked Sue, because her father owned a pizzeria. Sue and her parents lived right above the pizzeria. Every day after school, Sue and her friends would go to the pizzeria and Sue’s father would ask them, “Do you want a nice fresh pizza pie?” Of course, the kids always answered “yes” and “please.”
The teachers at Sue’s school did not like her as much as the other kids liked her. The math teacher liked Sue least of all, because instead of paying attention in class or memorizing her math facts, Sue was always writing and drawing on her paper. That is how Sue figured out why the area of a square was the length of a side multiplied by itself, and that is how Sue figured out that the area of a rectangle was the length of a long side multiplied by the length of a short side. Over pizza Sue showed all of her friends how to find the area of a rectangle before the math teacher even taught that lesson, which did not make the math teacher like Sue any better when the students in her class already knew the answers about squares and rectangles before they even got to that part of the math book.
When the math teacher got to circles, she told the class that you couldn't find the area of a circle because a circle only had a diameter, not a base and a height. Sue raised her hand. “The pizza pies my dad makes take different amounts of cheese when the pizzas are big or small, so there has to be a way of finding the area of a circle.”
The math teacher shook her head. “Not all areas can be known, young lady. Do you want to discuss this after school?”
Sue wanted to eat her dad’s pizza with her friends after school, so she answered “No,” and drew circles on her paper. After school, Sue stared at the pizza in its pan on the table as her friends grabbed slices.
Late that night when her mom and dad were asleep, Sue snuck down to the pizzeria with her ruler. She pulled out her father’s pizza pans of different sizes. She laid the pans on the counter and started cutting stacks of pepperoni slices into squares one centimeter an a side. Sue covered each pizza pan with the pepperoni squares she had made, but of course some of the pepperonis dangled off of the edges of the pans. Sue counted how many squares were on each pan, and then wrote that number on her paper. She took a pizza cutter and rolled it around the edge of each pan to trim off the extra pepperoni that didn’t fit in the pan. Sue carefully sorted the trimmings from each pan and tried to make them into more one centimeter squares, then she counted how many squares she had trimmed off for each pan. After she had counted how many squares she had trimmed off, she subtracted that number from how many squares she had laid onto each pan to begin with. She knew that the answer had to be the area of the pizza pan, more or less.
The next day in math class, Sue looked at her numbers. The pan with the 10 centimeter diameter took 78.5 pepperoni squares, the pan with the 20 centimeter diameter took 314 squares, and the pan with the 30 centimeter diameter took 706.5 squares. Sue was sure she could find a pattern to those numbers. At first she multiplied the diameter of each pan by itself, but that number was way bigger than her measurements. Then she tried multiplying half the diameter by itself, but that was smaller than her measurements. As she ignored her math teacher droning on about the mystery of circles, Sue noticed that half the diameter times itself was always about a third smaller than the area she measured with her pepperoni squares. So Sue did some arithmetic, and pretty soon she figured out that the number of pepperoni squares that would fit on a pan was equal to half the diameter of the pan multiplied by itself and then multiplied by 3.14.
Sue called that 3.14 “pi” in honor of the pizza pies that inspired her, so we do too.