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A slice of pi: Mill Creek fifth graders memorize the irrational, infinite of 3.14

'Gosh, this is hard'

BLACKBERRY TOWNSHIP – Téa Mathias squinched her eyes shut as she doggedly – and sometimes dramatically – plowed through the infinite numbers of pi, which are 3.1415926535, just for starters.

Téa was among eight finalists from the fifth grades at Mill Creek Elementary School in Geneva School District 304 who competed to see how many numbers they could state from memory. Behind each contestant was a projection of pi’s numbers in segments of 10 arranged in blocks of 50.

Fifth grade teacher Dan Medernach highlighted each number that was recited correctly.

This was the sixth annual pi competition, which of course, was held on March 14, a play on pi, which is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.

“Oh gosh,” Téa said, briefly stymied, then picked up the pace again.

“Wait, I’m lost,” Téa said, then after another pause, followed up with a new burst of numbers that kept her in the running.

“Oh!” Téa said, jumping up and down and grabbing her hair at one point. “I’m losing it. … Hold on, I’m losing it. … I can’t remember.”

Téa’s memory served her well enough to recite 256 numbers, putting her in third place.

Madison Rees managed to recite 140 digits, helping herself recall them by writing them down as she said them.

Annie Tomko stated pi’s numbers in a rhythm that was almost musical.

“Gosh, this is hard,” Annie said at one point. And when she hit 510, Annie said, “That’s all I know.”

Annie came in second.

But Wyatt Gross was not only the winner, but he created a new record with 1,011 pi numbers recited correctly, Medernach said.

The current record is held by James Warwick, now a freshman at Geneva High School, who memorized 465 digits back in 2010, officials said.

Wyatt received a standing ovation, and all three competition winners each received a T-shirt with the Greek symbol for pi on it – π. Then they filed out for lunch and a dessert of – what else – pie.

Perhaps trying to memorize digits of the infinite pi is as irrational as the number itself, but if the smiles on the fifth-graders' faces is any measure, it sure was fun.

Mill Creek pi participants

Wyatt Gross - 1,011
Annie Tomko - 510
Téa Mathias - 256
Addison Wood - 160
Josh Feucht - 156
Madison Rees - 140
Makenna Cowhey - 134
John Kegel - 104

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