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The Detroit Free Press

Ann Arbor boy can recite 1,300 pi digits — and won’t stop until he reaches 100,000

By Nour Rahal, Detroit Free Press,


Third grader Keshav Hebsur loves Roblox, soccer, basketball and numbers. His latest obsession is memorizing pi. So far, he can recite nearly 1,300 pi digits, but he says he won't stop until he reaches 100,000.

His mother, Rosha Hebsur, describes him as a very energetic, curious and sweet kid.

Keshav couldn't let go of a pi competition

"His teacher, Mr. Wilson, is really the inspiration for him memorizing pi," she said. "Keshav just kept going even though Mr. Wilson's competition was over, and he hasn't stopped since."

While learning about pi in December, Keshav's teacher at Emerson School in Ann Arbor, Michael Wilson, told his 12 after-school math club students that he used to be able to recite 100 pi digits when he was younger.

This started a competition among the students — whoever memorized the most digits won a small pie.

"After a while, I suddenly had kids going over 100. Well, (Keshav) took it upon himself, he's kind of competitive, to go further and further," Wilson said. "He is now up to 1,296 digits. ... We videotape him. We follow it. He goes so fast. He's developed this ability to chunk stuff."

Despite going to India to visit family for two weeks over winter break, Keshav, the pi enthusiast, would not stop asking family members to print him out more pi digits to memorize.

"I got really into (the competition)," Keshav said. "After winter break, I kept practicing a lot. ... My first sheet was 200 and once I got the 200, I made it 250. Then I got 300, so we made it 350. Then 500, and then my uncle made it 1,000, and then I printed out a sheet to 1,550."

Inspired by Akira Haraguchi

Keshav said he wants to be like Akira Haraguchi when he grows up.

Haraguchi is a retired engineer known for memorizing and reciting 100,000 pi digits during a public event near Tokyo in 2006, unofficially breaking the pi world record. He has since surpassed that record, as he told The Guardian in 2015 that he can "recite about 111,700 digits ... reciting more than 15,000 digits per day (since 2006). That takes up about an hour every day."

"I usually practice it a lot at school and usually when I'm getting ready to go to bed," Keshav said.

An ADHD diagnosis has helped him succeed

Keshav was recently diagnosed with attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Rosha Hebsur said. Especially when it came to reading, he had "a little bit of a rough start this year before he had his diagnosis" and before any interventions.

"ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood," according to the CDC.

"Knowing that his brain works a little bit differently than most kids has helped us really hone in on his strengths. We're very proud of him and his teacher, especially, has seen a big change in his motivation and attention," she said. "This couldn't have happened without Mr. Wilson's confidence in him and his classmates' encouragement."

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