Graduate student teacher celebrates Pi Day - every day
Pi Day may be celebrated in the world of mathematics on March 14, but for Auburn University graduate student teacher Kim Holman, every day is Pi Day.
What started as a fun roller derby player name for herself, Moon Pi #3.14, pi has become synonymous with Holman.
“It started out as just this cool pun with my roller derby name,” explained Holman. “Now it’s something I’ve latched on to and attached myself to as part of my identity.”
Holman is currently working towards earning a Ph.D. in mathematics through the Auburn University College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM) and began teaching math courses last semester. On the first day of class each semester, Holman wears a T-shirt with the Greek pi symbol inside of a giant heart and asks her students to call her Pi, or Professor Pi. She also wears a pi lanyard holding her office keys, has pi stamps and stickers for grading papers, and is even in the process of sewing pi facemasks with pi fabric.
Holman said her family and her own kids are especially excited about the pi facemasks.
“I go by Moon Pi, my husband is Mr. Pi, my oldest child is Raspberry Pi, my middle child is Pinky Pi, and my youngest is Cherry Pi,” she said. “We’ve got a whole pi family.”
Holman is currently leading recitation for Calculus 1 this semester and encourages her students to call her Pi or Professor Pi because it’s less formal than Mrs. Holman and helps her relate better to the students, which is her favorite part of teaching.
Holman always knew that teaching was her calling. After beginning her college education, Holman took a break to raise a family. She then decided if her dream of becoming a teacher would ever be realized, she had to finish her college education. Living in Montgomery at the time, Holman enrolled in Huntingdon College. She planned to earn a degree in secondary education, but scheduling conflicts permitted her from taking the required Education 101 course for two semesters.
“I began talking with the department chair and said that I felt like it was a sign that maybe I should pursue a Ph.D. and teach college math because that would be faster than trying to get into this one class,” she explained. “The chair told me that she had considered suggesting the idea because she thought I would be a great math professor. So, just like that, I began working towards that goal.”
Holman graduated with an undergraduate degree in mathematics in 2018 and began the Ph.D. program in COSAM soon after. Having tutored math since high school, Holman has known that teaching math was her calling for a long time.
“I have the ability to break things down simply so that students that think they’re bad at math can understand it and digest it and do well,” she shared. “I have noticed a lot of times the students actually do know what’s going on, they just end up second-guessing themselves. I tell them they’re intelligent and that they can do it and that it’s not out of reach.”
Holman said she will definitely celebrate Pi Day the week of March 14 in class, even if it’s just passing out a pi coloring sheet, and she plans to continue to celebrate pi in class even as her class subject matter changes throughout her education and career.
“I would love to teach geometry and History of Mathematics,” she said as she looks forward in her career. “But I also enjoy teaching the lower-level math classes, like Math 1000 and pre-calculus, because typically those are the students who have the most anxiety, who have the most baggage coming into a math classroom. If I can ease even a little bit of that anxiety for a student, then I consider that a job well done.”