'3, 1, 4, 1, 5...': Boy, 12, breaks Singapore record for most digits of Pi memorised
SINGAPORE — Staring intently at a glass of water in front of him, 12-year-old Siddharth Arya Ravulaparthi recited digit after digit of the mathematical constant Pi at a rate of around one digit per second.
- Siddharth Arya Ravulaparthi memorised 2,856 digits of the mathematical constant Pi, breaking the previous record of 2,626 digits.
- He discovered his ability to memorise the digits of the irrational number in 2020
- Twice during his training, Siddharth and his parents found out that someone else had set a new record
- He persevered and finally set a new record on Nov 1 in front of a Singapore Book of Records adjudicator
SINGAPORE — Staring intently at a glass of water in front of him, Siddharth Arya Ravulaparthi recited digit after digit of the mathematical constant Pi at a rate of around one digit per second.
An adjudicator from the Singapore Book of Records sat next to the boy, and held up a printed copy of the digits of Pi, watching and listening out for any error.
In a session lasting more than an hour on Nov 1, Siddharth, who celebrated his 12th birthday on Nov 8, ended up reciting 2,856 digits and became the Singapore record holder for the most number of Pi digits memorised.
He beat the previous record holder, Singaporean Paula Zheng Jiahui, by 230 digits.
Pi is an irrational number, which means it has an infinite number of digits. The challenge of memorising the most digits in Pi is Singapore’s most attempted personal record, according to the Singapore Book of Record’s website.
The world record is 70,000 digits of Pi, which was achieved by Mr Rajveer Meena of India in March 2015, according to the Guinness World Record's website.
Speaking to TODAY, the boy, a Singapore permanent resident who was born here, was nevertheless proud of his achievement. "When I broke the record, I was happy because it had taken me so long."
A CHALLENGING JOURNEY
Siddharth, who is currently a sixth grader in United World College of South East Asia East Campus, began his journey to try to break the Singapore record in 2020.
But he admitted it has not been easy, with him giving up at one point before rekindling his efforts thanks to his parents' encouragement.
Siddharth said he stumbled upon his ability to memorise digits after learning about the Pi constant in the third grade, in February 2020, when he was nine.
“I was fascinated, I didn’t know there was a number with never ending decimals,” he recalled.
"I asked my mom to print me a sheet with 100 digits… the next morning, I recited 60 digits."
Two days after that, he recited 170 digits and broke his school’s record. Ever since then, he asked his parents to print sheets with more and more digits written on them.
Nevertheless, he hit a bump as he continued his training. He told TODAY that he was quite inconsistent at the start.
Said Siddharth: “I got up to 650 (digits), and after that I just stopped, I lost interest in it.”
REVIVED HIS INTEREST
In Oct last year, Siddharth's 43-year-old mother, Tejaswini Tilak, showed him an article of a six-year-old breaking the Singapore record.
She then asked him: "Okay, do you want to also try?"
Hearing this, Siddharth recalled to TODAY that he was inspired to try again, professing that he has a competitive streak.
“And then I just kept memorising with the help of all these people,” recounted Siddharth, gesturing to his parents and younger brother.
His parents initially checked his progress to make sure he was on the right track. But soon, they delegated this duty to Siddharth's younger brother, seven-year-old Pragyan, as he had progressed to a level that the number of digits he could recite took them "too much time" to check.
They would also reward him with his favourite treat — ice cream – whenever he hit certain milestones, but also to comfort him when they realised he was struggling.
Despite this, Siddharth said that there were times when he still faltered.
“When I got to 750 to about 1,900 decimal places… (I realised) I was still far away. I still need to memorise (more)," said the boy.
The hard work at this middle point in his training meant he was less enthusiastic about it, than when he first discovered his ability or towards the end, when he was closest to his goal.
RECORD BROKEN TWICE DURING TRAINING
Twice during his training, his parents were about to apply to the official adjudicators because they thought he was ready to set a new record, only to discover that the existing record had been smashed by someone else.
Said Siddharth: “I was quite disappointed, I was like: ‘Oh my God, it’s broken again.’”
But instead of giving up, the boy told TODAY that the competition drove him forward. He also started training daily and started making less mistakes, his parents added.
In the week leading up to the pre-arranged day of the record attempt on Nov 1, Siddharth's hopes of breaking the record was not a foregone conclusion. He recalled needing to adjust his training.
“I would (usually recite) a lot faster... but I had to practice slowing it down so that Mr Ong (the adjudicator) could check the answer," said the boy. This last-minute change from his usual pace led to several mistakes during his practice sessions in the lead up to the actual day.
SETTING A NEW RECORD
When the day finally came, Siddharth recalled feeling fine in the morning, but began to feel stressed as the official attempt to break the record approached, at 6pm in his home.
“After I (ended) school, the pressure started building. I was able to do it so many times before, but if I can’t do it this one time, what happens?”
“My parents told me: ‘You’ve practised a lot, you’ve gotten it right a lot, now you just need to concentrate,” he added.
To help him focus, Siddharth placed a glass of water in front of him as he read the digits of Pi. His father exited the room to avoid distracting him, while his mother stayed there to support him.
“I just stared at it (the glass of water) and it paid off,” said the boy.
The record was finally broken an hour later. Siddharth received a certificate of his record, a copy of the Singapore Book of Records and a T-shirt with digits of Pi on it.
To celebrate, he said his parents, who came from India and have been Singapore permanent residents since 2010, bought him ice cream.
“I think it's less about the record, but it's about that process of setting a target, working hard,” said Ms Tilak, a vice-president of marketing in a data centre company.
“Success is never the end, it’s only a milestone,” said his father, Mr Ravi Ravulaparthi, who is the chief executive officer of a fintech company.
When asked what is next for him, Siddharth said that he wants to take a break before considering whether or not he wants to try for a new goal: 3,500 digits.
“I am happy with what happened. Whether I want to continue, or whether I want to let it go, it’s still a good achievement,” he said.
Related topicsSingapore book of records Pi
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