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American Today


Alex Ramdin Has Pi on Her Mind

By Mike Unger

Photo: Alex Ramdin

Alex Ramdin. (Photo courtesy of AU Athletics Communications)

“Three point one four one five nine two six five . . .”

As Alex Ramdin sings the digits of pi, set to a catchy melody, your own mind begins to race. Just how long can she go?

Ramdin, a sophomore on American University’s swim team, is slumping. In high school, she could recite the infinitesimal mathematical constant to the 300th place. Nowadays, she’s lucky if she can rattle off 200 digits, which of course still is a remarkable achievement.

“I’ll never forget the first 100,” she said.

Go ahead, call her bluff. Without hesitation she’ll break into song, the digits of pi substituting for lyrics in her numeric tune. Imagine if the “A, B, Cs” went on forever.

“Sometimes I bust it out in front of my friends or when somebody brings up pi,” she said. “They say, ‘that can’t be.’ People have brought up the digits on their laptops to check me.”

A public communication major and marketing minor who says she’s not a “math person,” Ramdin nonetheless began consuming pi as a high school student in Concord, North Carolina.

“We had a pretty intense Pi Day, and all the math teachers offered extra credit, a point for every extra digit that you knew,” she said. “I would sit in my classes and memorize it. You just have to say it over and over again. I developed a rhythm.”

Each January teachers would pass out papers with 10,000 digits of pi. Then on March 14th—Pi Day—the competition was on.

“I think the record is 600,” she said. “Everybody did it at my high school.”

Not bad for a human. A supercomputer at the University of Tokyo has calculated 206,158,430,000 digits. But who’s counting?

Ramdin specializes in freestyle and breast stroke. She finished 18th in the 100 meter breaststroke at this season’s Patriot League championships, turning in a new personal-best time. Though she’s a sprinter, her training sessions in the pool can drag, so lots of things run through her mind and she swims back and forth, back and forth. 

“Even sometimes when I’m swimming miles and miles I’ll think about it,” she said of pi. “People think it’s the weirdest thing.”