HOW TO REMEMBER NUMBERS - Method 1

So far I have shown you how to remember lists using a variety of Peg Systems such the Number Shape and Rhyme systems and the Journey Technique. The basic principle has been to create a series of pegs in your mind on which to place the thing that you want to remember. Our lists have so far concentrated on objects but what if we want to remember numbers? One option is to use the images in our Number Shape or Number Rhyme system. So if we chose the Number Shape System where 2 is represented by a swan and 6 is represented by an elephant then for the number 26, you could link together these two images. The only problem is how do you distinguish between your combined elephant and swan images for 26 and 62? What we need is a more versatile system that allows more unique images for a wider range of numbers.

The oldest known technique for doing this is called the Major System. It is over 300 years old and was introduced by Stanislaus Mink von Wennsshein and later developed by Dr Richard Grey. It is a very flexible system because not only does it allow lists greater than 10 to be remembered, it also provides a method of memorising dates and numbers.

The theory is that the Major System uses a different Consonant sound (any sound that isn't made by the vowels a,e,i,o,u) for each number from 0-9 in the form of a code.

The code is as follows:

 Number Associated Code How to Remember 0 s, z, soft c zero = 0 1 d, t,th t has 1 downstroke 2 n n has 2 downstrokes 3 m m has 3 downstrokes 4 r r is the last letter of "four" 5 l L is the Roman Numeral for 500 6 j, sh, soft ch, dg, soft g j is almost a mirror image of 6 7 k, hard ch, hard c, hard g, ng, qu Capital K is made up of two 7s 8 f, v f when handwritten has two loops like 8 9 b, p P is a mirror image of 9

It can appear a little daunting to have to remember what sound represents what letter and vice versa but if you want to have the ability to remember any number at will, then you must understand that you will have to put a little effort in. The Major system is just one way of doing it. Next month, I'll be showing you another way which you may find easier but in the meantime, just stick with it. So how does this system work. Well let me take you through an example. Suppose you wanted to remember the number 1770, how do we do that. Well first of all we must allocate the consonant sounds to each number:

 1 7 7 0 d, t,th k, hard ch, hard c, hard g, ng, qu s, z, soft c

Let us choose 1=d, the first 7=g, the second 7=k and 0=s

 1 7 7 0 d g k s

It is important to remember that it is the sounds that we are interested in. Now all we have to do is make words up by adding vowels or the silent consonants (h, w and y) to the letters representing 1770. My choice would be dog kiss. Now using the principles of a super power memory which are:

1. Synaesthesia/Sensuality
2. Movement
3. Association
4. Humour
5. Imagination
6. Number
7. Symbolism
8. Colour
9. Order and/or sequence
10. Positive images
11. Exaggeration.

I would make a vivid image of a dog rushing up to someone and giving them a big sloppy wet kiss. Now when we come to translate the images back to a number, we see a dog giving someone a kiss. If we think back to what each sound means we recall that d=1, g=7, k=7 and s=0 therefore our number is 1770. But what use can that be? Well if I tell you that Beethoven was born in 1770 and you take your image of Beethoven and link it with a dog giving him a big kiss then you have just used the technique to memorise the year of his birth.

We could have chosen the words tea cakes, or hat kings, or duck case. It really does not matter as long as the code is adhered to. The beauty of the system is that each number can have many images made up from the sounds you choose making it a very flexible system but each word only has one number associated with it. Look at the following examples:

 Hurdle 415 Cabbage 796 May 3 Crew 74 Chimney 632

You do not have to be limited to words with 3 consonant sounds. A good rule of thumb is to only use the first three sounds of any word so Championship actually translates to 639269 but it will be easier to make words out of 3 digits so Championship can be represented by 639.

If you need to remember any dates or numbers of any kind, you now have a system that can allow you to turn any number into a vivid image by coding the number into sounds from which you can make words and hence vivid images. Another way that you could use it is to make your own unique images for the numbers 1-100 and then you have your own peg system for remembering lists of up to 100 items. But why stop at 100 because with this system you can develop lists that may be thousands of places long. It is a sophisticated technique and does require effort, but if you want to make it work, you can. Just see it as another tool to help you with your learning. Next month I will tell you all about the system that helped me come second in the 1998 World Memory Championships.