Frenchman smashes memory record for Pi digits

Amazingly, his test was all done in Swedish

Published Last updated

A Strasbourg man has smashed the French record for reciting the most decimal digits of Pi (3.14...) from memory, reciting 4,679 numbers without error during a performance in Sweden for “Pi Day” (March 14, or, written decimally, 3.14).

Sylvain Estadieu, aged 32 and originally from Strasbourg (Grand Est) but now living in Sweden, took almost 90 minutes to recite the impressive list, at a speed of one number per second, in Swedish.

Sitting on stage during the Swedish Open 2018 event, he was blindfolded and watched by three witnesses, of which one - the rules stated - had to be of “academic” status, such as a professor, lawyer or notaire.
Mathematically, Pi has been calculated to over 10,000 billion decimal points, but is mostly known as its first three digits: 3.14.

Estadieu first stumbled across a memory skills manual two years ago, having not known much about memory methods before then.

He has since taken part in several memory competitions.

Estadieu claims that it is not necessary to be “good at maths” to successfully memorise Pi.

Instead, he explained to newspaper 20 Minutes, his memorisation system sees him associating three numbers at a time with one image - such as an object or a person.

He then memorises the image, rather than the individual numbers themselves - for example, 121 becomes “a tent”, because he associates the consonants of the letters TNT (TeNTe) with the numbers.

When he adds the vowels in his head, he explains, that allows him to remember “121”.

Continuing in this way, Estadieu creates lists of images, which he then orders into a story. In remembering the images and the story, he then remembers the numbers.

For his 4,679 numbers, he had to create 1,500 images, which he said took him three weeks of practising up to two hours a day.

Yet, despite smashing the French record, he said he was disappointed with his performance, and had hoped to recite 10,000 decimals.

“I was ready to do 10,000, and I had reached that several times by tapping the digits on my keyboard,” he said. “But my tongue slipped, but I had to translate the digits into Swedish, and I messed up on one number.”

The world record is still held by an Indian man, and stands at 70,000 digits.

Stay informed:
Sign up to our free weekly e-newsletter
Subscribe to access all our online articles and receive our printed monthly newspaper The Connexion at your home. News analysis, features and practical help for English-speakers in France