A mouthful of Pi: Island teacher recites 1,510 digits in 18 minutes

Tim Coy’s mark is fifth all-time in Canadian rankings, students also impressive

Teacher Tim Coy recited Pi to 1,510 digits in a competition at Shawnigan Lake School on March 14, while four students also surpassed 160 digits. (Arden Gill photo)

Teacher Tim Coy recited Pi to 1,510 digits in a competition at Shawnigan Lake School on March 14, while four students also surpassed 160 digits. (Arden Gill photo)

There’s no word on how good Tim Coy is at baking, but the English teacher at Shawnigan Lake School on southern Vancouver Island sure knows his Pi.

Coy recited the beloved mathematical constant to 1,510 digits during a competition at the school on — what else? — Pi Day: March 14. (The first three digits of Pi are 3.14.)

Coy’s feat, which took 18 minutes, is the fifth-best time in Canadian history, and 123rd in the world rankings. In 1974, he would have set a new world record.

Four students took part in the competition as well, led by Grade 10 Max Chong, who recited 423 digits, good for eighth in the Canadian rankings and 325th in the world.

The goal was to recite, from memory, as many decimal places as possible. The rules allowed for an error of one digit, which had to be corrected before moving on to the next, and competitors were allowed two attempts. Three adjudicators monitored the recitations and agreed on the result.

“We had a qualifying bar of 60 digits and I expected there to be quite a few who could reach 100 digits, especially given the short window of time to practice,” said organizer and math teacher Mark Swannell. “However, I was not expecting the sheer quality of the contest. I loved the fact that we had a cross-section of competitors and appreciated the time they put into this niche event.”

The other competitors included Gabriel Dyer, who recited 186 digits (612th in the World Pi Rankings); Jack McConnell, who reached 172 digits (629th), and Brianna Hick, who got to 161 digits (659th).

The whole week ahead of Pi Day featured competitions, quizzes and cross-curricular activities at the school, culminating in the big contest, as well as a special pie lunch. The five finalists competed not only for glory and a place in the World Pi Rankings, but also for a trophy created by Grade 11 student Gabriel Au.

“We hope this will become an annual event here at Shawnigan,” Swannell said. “These mathletes have set the bar high for future events.”

The event was filmed by Grade 11 student Marc Chen.

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