Math and science make my head spin!
That wasn’t always the case. When I was in elementary school, I crafted my very own cubicle by positioning shelving around the desk in my playroom like cool kids do. I remember sitting at that “cubicle,” studying my science textbook and feeling so pumped while reading about matter.
I wrote notes on post-its about matter and atoms, and I hung them on my cubicle wall, and I felt so genuinely jazzed about science. This was also the era when I CRUSHED it at “Round the World,” the game we played to spout off our newly learned multiplication tables.
What about a robot?
Fast forward a few years, and I was obsessed with making a robot (probably a desperate plea for companionship, but let’s focus on the pursuit of technology instead). I still can picture the robotics section of my public library, the gray carpet, the metal shelves, the smell of those old books. I didn’t have any required tools or a solid plan or a mentor, but at least I had the cumbersome pile of books.
Middle School can really crush a girl.
Then I hit middle school, more specifically, I hit biology class with Mrs. Cipriano. I’m not sure if she once had a spark, and the school system killed it, or maybe she had dreams of working in isolation in a lab somewhere, but that woman was not cut out for teaching. She lectured on and on about mitochondria, with disgust and irritation in her voice, refusing to lend any creativity to explaining what was our first deep dive into abstract layers of science. I shrank.
I can’t blame Mrs. Cipriano completely. I was and still am the type of girl who haaaaates to get a wrong answer or a rejection, takes it waaaay too personally, as if I am no longer smart (a big thank you to the book Mind Set for helping me start to mend this flawed way of thinking). Nonetheless, when I think of her, I feel this sadness. She could have been my female role model, but instead, she crushed my enthusiasm.
Side note– I did have a truly dedicated technology teacher, who I wrote recently to thank for his investment in my education and my college path. He supported me and made me feel like I belonged, even when I was the only girl in class.
There’s still so much work to be done for a more equal playing field, but I am so inspired by the growing number of opportunities for girls to step up to the STEAM plate. One of my close friends, Nina Barbuto, founded Assemble, a space where kids of all economic backgrounds come to learn about coding, chemistry, architecture, engineering, robotics, sculpture, etc, and it’s all FUN! It’s colorful. It’s loud. It’s messy. It’s what learning should be. Who knows? Had Assemble been around when I was surfing the library, I may have built my very own robot and been on a completely different trajectory.
I had a few disenchanted teachers, and I had some really inspiring teachers, and I know I was still luckier than most. I ended up studying a mix of art and technology. I went to Carnegie Mellon University to study architecture, and amidst my stress (that place was challenging!), Pi Day (March 14th- 3/14) always put a smile on my face. I appreciated the nerdy zeal of the math club, who chalked the entire campus with the digits of pi while the rest of the campus “slept” (ie: worked all night in studio). Last year’s Pi(e) Day was an ode to my alma mater.
Math and science can be intimidating, and it’s for that reason I love Pi(e) Day. Through word play and pastry, math becomes more approachable, more playful and more creative. Through butter and flour, people start to talk abut circumference and diameter, and why does this number never stop?!?
So here’s to the dedicated and inspiring math and science teachers, to the movers and to the shapers of young minds. Here’s to making math and science fun and sparking curiosity. I hope calculus classes everywhere are eating pie on this nerdy pun day!
Happy Pi(e) Day 2017!
p.s: Last year, when my hair was wildly red and purple, I chatted Pi and Pie with a CMU math professor. Here’s the video.
p.p.s: Did you know? The roundest knight at King Arthur’s table was Sir Cumference. He ate too much pi. har har har… here’s a few more Pi(e) Day Puns for you.
Spiced Apple Pie with a Chai Flavored Whole Grain Crust
About this Recipe: Adding the contents of chai tea bags to the crust yields a subtle spiced flavor. Up that quantity for more intense chai notes. The filling is classic and comes together easily. I recommend serving with a swig of Blanton’s Whiskey and a hearty scoop of organic vanilla bean ice cream, or a dollop of bourbon whipped cream (recipe below).
4 oz organic cream cheese
12 Tablespoons organic unsalted butter, cut into cubes and chilled
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar, chilled
4-5 Tablespoons ice water
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
5-6 apples, such as Empire, Granny Smith, Gala, Cortland, Winesap, or a mix, sliced
1/2 cup organic brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons organic unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg + 1 Tablespoon water (optional)
For the Crust
Place the flour, the contents of two chai tea bags, salt and baking powder in a mixing bowl, and whisk to combine.
Add the cream cheese, and rub the mixture between your fingers to blend the cream cheese into the flour until it resembles coarse meal. Add the butter cubes in the same way.
Add the chilled apple cider vinegar and ice water, a tablespoon at a time, stirring gently to incorporate.
After 4-5 tablespoons, squeeze the mixture in your hand. If it generally sticks together when you let go, it is fine. If it completely crumbles apart, it needs a bit more liquid.
Once the dough comes together, separate it into two equal discs.
On a well floured surface, roll each disc into a circular shape, about 1 cm thick. Carefully transfer the dough to a lightly greased and floured pie dish. Mold the dough into the sides of the pan, letting the extra crust hang off the edge. Trim excess crust. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes.
Roll out the remaining crust. Transfer to a parchment lined plate or tray, cover with plastic wrap and chill.
Use any leftover dough to create your pie garnishes.
For the Filling
Preheat oven to 450°F with a rack set in lowest position.
Toss the apple slices and lemon juice in a large bowl. Add sugar, cinnamon, cardamom and salt; toss to combine.
Remove dough-lined pie plate from refrigerator. Fill with apple mixture, gently packing apples and mounding slightly in center; dot with butter. Lightly brush rim of pie shell with water.
Remove remaining circle of dough from refrigerator. Lay over apples; press along moistened rim to seal. Trim any overhang and crimp edges with a fork.
Add any decorative pie crust elements.
With a floured paring knife, cut 5 to 6 slits in top of pie, radiating from center. Whisk together the egg and water, and brush the surface of the crust with the egg wash (optional).
Place pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes; reduce heat to 375°F and bake until crust is golden and juices are bubbling, 50 to 60 minutes more. If edges brown too quickly, cover with aluminum foil.
Cool completely, at least 6 hours, before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream or bourbon whipped cream (recipe below).
Bourbon Whipped Cream
1 cup organic heavy cream
1 Tablespoon wildflower honey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-2 Tablespoons bourbon
Chill the cream in a mixing bowl in the freezer until the cream just starts to freeze. Remove from the freezer. Add the honey and vanilla.
Use a mixer, on medium speed, to beat until peaks begin to form.
Add the bourbon, and continue to mix until combined.
Keep chilled until ready to serve.