Sharing the Pi: Two junior collaborate to smash old record for reciting digits of pi

Pi. Most people know what it is: the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. The value of pi is the same for every single circle: approximately 3.14. The value is approximate because it is irrational, meaning it goes on forever and never repeats itself.

Many mathematicians eagerly await a specific day every year, March 14, known as “Pi Day” because when the date is written out, it becomes 3.14. This year’s Pi Day was special because it is the year 2015. The next few digits of pi would look like 3.1415, which is what the date looked like on March 14, 2015.

Every year math teacher Richard Strike offers an opportunity for his students to earn extra credit on Pi Day. The task is to remember and recite as much of pi as each students wants. For every 10 digits memorized, the student receives one extra credit point, with a limit of 10 extra points. Students who memorize more than 100 digits have their name put on a wall in Strike’s room.

For 2 years, 315 recited digits was the record. That record seemed impossible to surpass, but this year, juniors Mary Anton and Sam Zhang not only surpassed that staggering amount, but more than doubled it. The juniors tied at 650 digits of pi.

Zhang always had his sights set on the school record.

“Mr. Strike talked about how memorizing enough digits would get your name on his pi leaderboards,” Zhang said. “I wanted to have the school record.”

Anton said that while the two were competing, they still stayed friends and motivated each other.

“We tied because we’re friends who didn’t want the other to lose,” Anton said. “Sam was there for competition, and we helped each other reach such a high number.”

Strike was amazed by what he was watching when the students surpassed 600 digits.

“It was amazing because that’s a talent that I don’t have,” Strike said. “Doing what they did, it requires talent.”

While the two had the same final result, they had different methods of reaching the 600s.

Anton used a pi app on her smartphone to help her.

“I memorize pi 10 digits at a time because longer strings of numbers would overwhelm me,” Anton said. “I found patterns in each group of 10 such as 0011, 1717 or 32823. It all kind of lines up in my head.”

Zhang also used the pi app.

“I sometimes memorized sequences in groups of three or four. I also used palindromes like 65756,” Zhang said. “I also grouped the same number together whenever I could, such as 66.”

Strike’s record wasn’t as high as Anton’s or Zhang’s.

“The highest I got was up to 100 a couple years ago,” Strike said. “Pi day is a unique thing that we do, and it’s very fun.”

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