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Pi Day playlist: 14 songs for dividing 22 by 7

Tahiat Mahboob

Waking up to the smell of freshly baked pie? Keep seeing people with foil-wrapped pie dishes on your morning commute? Wondering, “What’s with all the pie?” It’s Pi Day!

It's a day that's celebrated around the world on March 14, or 3/14. The Greek letter “π” (pi) is a symbol used in mathematics to represent the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. Simply put, if you measure a bunch of round objects, you’ll discover that regardless of the size, a circle is a little more than three times its width around. Or as Archimedes determined, pi is approximately 22/7 or 3.14159 — and we’ll stop there. Pi has been calculated to more than one trillion digits past its decimal but for the purposes of celebrating, you only need 3.14 for March 14.

And we’ve got you covered. But not with freshly baked pies — we’ll leave that to the bakers. Whether you’re headed to a pie bake-off, challenging yourself to divide 22 by 7 to see how far you get past the decimal, or simply looking for some tunes that your inner mathlete can rock out to, we've come up with music to match the occasion.

We contemplated creating a pie playlist as opposed to a pi playlist, but the math won out. We also debated on whether to simply pick songs with mathematical-sounding titles, or ones that factor into the lyrics. Ultimately, we settled on a bit of both for variety. Here are our 14 picks for Pi Day.

Michael John Blake, 'What Pi sounds like'

If you were expecting the list to be kicked off with Kate Bush’s “Pi,” spoiler alert: she’s coming up next. But Michael John Blake’s musical interpretation of pi was too on point (and good) to pass up. "For me, it has this great combination of pleasant but also slightly weird — kind of haunting," said Blake in an interview a few years ago.

Kate Bush, 'Pi'

No Pi Day playlist is complete without this Kate Bush song that describes a gentle, sensitive man who has a complete infatuation with the calculation of pi.

Feist, '1234' (Sesame Street version)

Should a song that conveniently drops seven and eight for rhyming purposes and jumps from six to nine even be on this list? That dilemma was resolved when we found the Sesame Street version of Feist’s catchy tune. As it turns out, she, too, made sure she counted properly, albeit only to four.

Nautilus featuring Arcee, 'Twelve'

It would be criminal to talk about counting and Sesame Street but make no mention of the show's own classic “Counting to 12” song. But rather than include the funky, straightforward number, here’s a three-for-one by Toronto-based DJ and producer Nautilus. A reinterpretation of the Sesame Street song, this track features the rapping artistry of Arcee and Fatski.

Beyoncé, 'Countdown'

After counting up with Feist and Sesame Street, it’s only appropriate that we count down. Between “1+1” from the same Beyoncé album as this song, it was a no brainer. Not only does "Countdown" have a solid, skip-no-numbers countdown, but it also does a good job of wordplay with these lyrics: "We dressing to the nine/ he pick me up, we eight/ make me feel so lucky seven.”

Clint Mansell, 'πr²'

A fitting song title from the Darren Aronofsky movie Pi, Clint Mansell’s "πr²" (or the formula for calculating the area of a circle) is an intense electronic track that marks the beginning of numerous collaborations between the musician and the filmmaker.

Little Boots, 'Mathematics'

Granted it’s a song about love, but props to Little Boots for finding a way to work in Fibonacci, Pythagoras and a bunch of different calculations to figure out the mathematics (pun intended) of relationships.

Deadmau5, 'Maths'

While it’s a good beat to jam to, the beauty of this deadmau5 song lies in the underrated and hard-to-hear lyrics. But once you read them, it hits you: he is trying to do calculations with the numbers four and 12.

The Trash Can Sinatras, 'Circling the Circumference'

It would be a glaring omission if this list had no songs about circles, given what Pi Day is about. But rather than pick from one of the many songs titled “Circles,” we went with this Trash Can Sinatras number that invokes the essence of a circle in its opening lines.

Modest Mouse, 'Never Ending Math Equation'

While this Modest Mouse song isn’t about math, per se, the lyrics — “The universe works on a math equation/ that never even ever really ends in the end/ infinity spirals out creation” — do hark back to the never-ending nature of trying to divide 22/7.

Jonathan Coulton, 'Mandelbrot Set'

This song definitely wins the “Is it mathematical enough?” litmus test. An ode to mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot, the lyrics touch up on quite a few mathematical sets. When Mandelbrot died in 2010, Jonathan Coulton was interviewed and asked whether the father of fractal geometry knew about the song. “He did know of the song, and I think he liked it well enough. In the Big Think interview, he talks about it as one small piece of the very large and weird structure of his life, career and legacy, which is very flattering to me. I never met him, and I’m not sure we would have been able to have much of a real discussion about either mathematics or songwriting, but it’s nice to know my song made it back to him.”

Symphony of Science, 'Secret of the Stars'

You’re probably wondering why this song is on this list rather than our space jams playlist. Consider this the Easter egg of this playlist. Not only do the lyrics delve into explaining E = mc², but seeing as March 14 is also Albert Einstein’s birthday, it walked itself onto this list.

Mos Def, 'Mathematics'

Even though we already covered mathematics, we had to include this witty track by Mos Def. Listen carefully for his pointed political commentary using statistics.

College Humor, 'The Irrationally Long Number Pi Song'

After kicking off this list with Michael John Blake's "What Pi sounds like," we're coming full circle with this last number. Granted, College Humor is not a musical act, but of the various iterations listing the numbers that follow the decimal, this track incorporates much of the math elements of the ratio. And what better way to end a 14-song playlist than with a track that's almost 14 minutes long?

Happy dividing!

Follow Tahiat Mahboob on Twitter: @TahiatMahboob

More to explore:

Albert Einstein: 10 things you might not know about his love for music

Space Jam: 5 playlists in anticipation of the next space discovery

Spring ahead: 2017's best songs to make up for the hour you lost