You are probably not a maths professor. I’m not. Nor an expert in quantum theory. Or differential calculus. But I like collecting pseudo-brainy-sounding general knowledge stuff in case I ever go on Mastermind/University Challenge (you never know).
‘Pi ‘(or ‘π’ if we are going to be all Greek about this) is a mathematical constant that big brainboxes find really useful for doing their sums. It’s also an ‘irrational number’ – do you love that? And it’s quite handy to have it stuffed in the back of your mind in case anyone ever calls you stupid.
You can also teach it to your kids when you’re in a traffic jam.
Well, what is Pi? It’s 3.141592
How are you going to remember that?
‘How I wish I could calculate Pi’.
The letters in each word add up to give you Pi to six decimal places. Now that’s impressive.
How to remember the speed of light? Another useful nugglet of info. That’s coming next.
If your parents are any older than around 65, you’ll have heard them drone on about how poems, learning and reciting them, was part and parcel of their schooldays. (‘Disciplines the mind…’ etc etc) And they can probably still give you a little burst, too. Learning a poem is part of what my father calls ‘filling your cupboard’. That’s the compartment inside you that is stuffed full of images, memories, jokes, stuff you learnt at school, all the wise words anyone ever told you plus a whole lot more you remember from books you’ve read, song lyrics you’ve retained, hymns you’ve sung and so on. As he says, in the event of being taken hostage, or getting trapped (for a long time) in a lift, or alone down a mine shaft or any situation where you find yourself alone in the dark, not knowing when you’ll get out, having a full ‘cupboard’ is indispensable. (How likely is it that this situation will arise? But never mind. It’s good to be prepared.)
The guy with the REALLY full cupboard has to be Field Marshal Lord Wavell, onetime Viceroy of India. He had a huge memory for poetry and collected all the poems he knew by heart into an anthology called ‘Other Men’s Flowers’. Fantastic book. And when your kid groans at learning a 10-line poem, it’s a concrete example of just how much the brain can hold on to.
My son’s got to learn a poem. My view is that he might as well choose one that will add some value to his cupboard. Poems about nose-picking and pants are out. Rudyard Kipling’s paternal words of advice to his son in his poem ‘If’ may set the bar pretty high, but it’s one that will give my boy a good reference point for the rest of his life.