LEXINGTON -- Jenna Halfhill’s name will go down in history at Eastern Elementary. The sixth grader recently won this year’s pi bee by correctly reciting the first 232 digits of pi -- shattering the school’s previous record.
Halfhill's feat occurred last week during the annual sixth grade pi bee. Every year on or around March 14 (a.k.a. “Pi Day”), sixth grade students compete to see who can memorize the most digits of math's most famous irrational number.
Halfhill broke the previous Eastern Elementary record of 201 digits set by Julia Wyant in 2019.
“My parents would tell me the next three and I would just say them over and over,” Halfhill said of her study method.
Pi, often represented by the π symbol, is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. While it’s often abbreviated to 3.14, Pi is an irrational number -- meaning it goes on infinitely without any kind of repetitive pattern.
Students are given just three days to memorize as many digits as they can, sixth grade math teacher Jennifer Berry said.
Halfhill said the most challenging part of memorizing pi was finding the time to work on it, but she studied the numbers whenever she could. During the days leading up to the bee, Halfhill repeated the numbers constantly -- during study hall, on the bus and even after school.
“On the day when we had to recite them to our class, I used up the whole computer lab and study hall," she said.
Halfhill kept adding numbers to her total throughout the day of the contest, right up until math class.
“She left that morning with 175, so she memorized from 175 to 232 all on her own at school the day of the competition," said her mother, Jill Halfhill. "I was shocked when she came home and said she reached 232.”
As this year's pi bee champion, Halfhill's name will be added to a plaque inside the school. She also won a bag of candy. Halfhill said she's equally pleased with her prizes.
“On one hand, the plaque looks really good. But candy tastes good," she said.
Gianna Burt took second place this year with 119 digits. Corbin Berry earned third place with 84 digits.
Berry started the pi bee competition five years ago as a way to introduce students to pi and circle math after it was removed from the sixth grade Common Core standards.
“Since Common Core came along, we don’t do as much with circles,” Berry said. “We just give them a little sneak peek of what’s coming.”
The first year she gave her classes about 100 digits to memorize, but each year the students learn more and she has to up the number.
“I can’t believe the capacity that these students actually have," she said. "They amaze me and inspire me every day."