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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

3.14159265358979323

That's how many digits of Pi I memorized back in my 8th grade Algebra class. I was very good at math back then, and I usually finished all my tests and quizzes quite a bit early, so I spent all the extra time staring at a banner of the many digits of Pi wrapping around my classroom. I tried to go further than the 17th decimal point, but no more digits stuck. Those 17 decimal points have been with me for 12 years, though, and I can still spout them out rhythmically and robotically, with the same inflection each time, like you do with your childhood phone number.

In that same class, there was one test question that uncharacteristically stumped me. I was not in the habit of reading the chapters from our math book, even if our teacher assigned them, because I already understood how to do the Algebra without reading them. But one test question asked us to define a few terms from one of the chapters, and the one term I didn't know was apothem.

Never one to leave a test question blank, I defined an apothem as a small furry marsupial that played dead in the face of danger. Then I drew a little picture of the animal in my sketchbook. I can't remember if I had been clever enough to say the animal had a lisp. I didn't receive points for my answer, but my teacher did congratulate me on my pun.


Funny the completely useless things that remain in memory while important things slip away.

I still don't know what an apothem is, either.


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18 comments:

B.R. said...

I have been thinking about the value of selective memory recently.
Ergo, I dug this. It gave me more food for thought.
Impressive memory, btw.
I'm a fan of the Pi but I don't have many digits of it memorized. This is another thing I think about. At Ohio State, one of the building where I deliver my lectures has a lot of math. art. One of the texts is the lovely pi. I have often wondered how many digits I'd manage to remember at one time. I have never matched yours. Ergo, my tip of the hat is heading your way.

Dena said...

I remember seeing a sign in Italy that said "falling rocks" and there was mesh holding up the loose rocks on the mountainside. While I remember the sign, I even remember thinking, at the ripe age of 4, "Isn't the warning supposed to be in Italian?".

Anyway...memories stick around for a reason. Their own reasons, yes.

Claire said...

I'm right there with you, sister.

Me: "Hey, Brain, can you please give me the numbers that I rely on in order to keep my imperiled job and not look like a total douche in front of my boss?"

My Brain: "Nope, sorry. How about the complete lyrics to the theme from "The Great Space Coaster" instead?"

Erin said...

I never learned "apothem" and I minored in math. I think that's a question they made up so people who are bad at algebra can get some points.

The McDonald's Menu Song is taking up space in my brain. I'd be more proud of pi.

Anonymous said...

8th grade?

I memorized 3.14159265358979323846264338327950288 in 7th... i spent 8th grade memorizing elements
Hydrogen H 1.008
Helium... nevermind i dont ffeel like typing it all

Anonymous said...

same person as above

just wanted to say im still in 8th grade (ang geometry ^.^)
i googled 3.14159265358979323
and found this

Anonymous said...

same person as above

just wanted to say im still in 8th grade (ang geometry ^.^)
i googled 3.14159265358979323
and found this

Sra said...

Very good, anon. The real test will be whether you can still recite these memorizations at age 27 ;)
Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I should join.
i`ll forget this before I`m 27 ;)
but some things have stuck with me
for 13 years...
btw: i memorized up to Zirconium
now

Henry said...

Wow, I gotta say it's pretty cool to stumble upon your page. I also remembered pi to 17th decimal points back when I was about 12 (I dunno what grade that is in the US).

Just googled 3.14159265358979323 as I was having a convo with my girlfriend about how cool (I thought) I am, but it seems there are others out there!

By the way, I'm 22, and I really think it's gonna stick forever. And as with you, I cant remember more than that!

Sra said...

Cool, Henry. 12 years old is about 6th grade in the U.S., so you were a couple years ahead of me. But, coming from elsewhere than the U.S., that is not a surprise!

Sra said...

Cool, Henry. 12 years old is about 6th grade in the U.S., so you were a couple years ahead of me. But, coming from elsewhere than the U.S., that is not a surprise!

B.R. said...

I have been thinking about the value of selective memory recently.
Ergo, I dug this. It gave me more food for thought.
Impressive memory, btw.
I'm a fan of the Pi but I don't have many digits of it memorized. This is another thing I think about. At Ohio State, one of the building where I deliver my lectures has a lot of math. art. One of the texts is the lovely pi. I have often wondered how many digits I'd manage to remember at one time. I have never matched yours. Ergo, my tip of the hat is heading your way.

MERP said...

I memorized this in 6th grade. my best friend memorized 70 in 6t grade. we both did so by accident. i also googled 3.14159265358979323 and THIS came up.

MERP said...

Helium = He, Aluminum = Al, Nitrogen = N, neon = Ne, etc., I don't know the atomic masses. :) My friend memorized 70 digits in 6th grade for me.

MERP said...

Tau is better. (#, not Greek letter). Search ViHart videos on YouTube. AWESOME. Mr. Ug and Wind!!!!!!!!!! :)

MERP said...

What IS an apothem, I wonder?????? Whatever! I am very good in math, I guess. Straight As. I only memorized 8 digits of tau, 18 of pi. Oh well! BTW, I get 100s in every math test quiz, etc. WHY AM I NOT IN ADVANCED MATH????? Sorrry....









Did you konw taht yuor bairn can read tihs as lnog as the frist and lsat lttres are in the crocret palces? It may just be me...

Sra said...

Well, I can't say I even know what tau is, so you got me there. I pretty much only remember using pi and another constant called "e" in physics, though I don't remember what e is for either. Oh, aging.

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