Pi contest raises $27,000 for MSSM

8 months ago

LIMESTONE, Maine — The Maine School of Science and Mathematics was the perfect place to celebrate Pi Day (March 14). 

The school, a public residential magnet school focused on STEM learning, has developed a reputation as one of the top public high schools in the country. Its students are often top performers at math and science competitions and are attracted to the school for its rigorous curriculum and talented faculty. 

This Pi Day, students had a friendly competition to see who could name the most digits of pi, a mathematical number used in many formulas. The number starts with 3.14 but continues on — well, forever. Any student who participated would receive a small single-serving pie and the winning student would go home with a fresh-baked blueberry pie. 

The MSSM Foundation, a 501(c)3 whose mission it is to support the school, proposed turning Pi Day into a fundraising event. The foundation reached out to alumni, friends, and parents and asked them to pledge any amount of money for each digit of pi the winning student could correctly name.

It turns out those donors might need to dig a little deeper in their pockets than they expected. Ari Anghel, a sophomore from Windham, was able to list exactly 500 digits. This beat out last year’s winner, senior Owen Dulac from Raymond, who was able to name 213 correctly this year — about 50 more than he named last year. 

The 500 digits was not an MSSM record. Two students in 2003 were able to recite more, school officials said.

With 42 donors combining to pledge $55.66 per digit, the MSSM Foundation raised $27,580. 

“It was incredible,” said Sam Critchlow, the school’s executive director. “I had printed out 300 digits of pi before the competition to keep track, but then at the last minute printed out more to be safe. I’m glad I did.”

“I almost couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” said Jeff Candura, development director for the foundation. “We were hoping to raise a few thousand dollars. We never expected this.”

The MSSM Foundation supports grants for professional development, facility upgrades, summer camp, student financial assistance, and academic programming. 

“This fundraiser will allow us to do so much good here at MSSM,” said Candura. “The students and faculty here are incredible. It is a small school, and they need all the financial support they can get.”