How to memorize any number

The brain has evolved to be excellent at remembering visual cues, but not as good at remembering abstract concepts like numbers.

To remember a set of numbers, then, we just need to convert them into words that we can see and feel.

Here’s how.

First, we need a system to help us convert any digit into some sort of sound. Once we have a set of sounds, we can then put them together into a set of words, preferably that have a visual component.

The Major System is great tool we’ll use to convert numbers into consonant sounds. Once we have consonants, we can then fill in with whatever vowels we want to make up a memorable set of words and sentence. But only the consonant sounds will be decoded back into their number equivalents.

NOTE: What matters here is the sound that the word makes, not how it’s spelled.

Conversion Table

Number Consonant sound Phonetic Examples How to remember this association
0 S, Z SiZe, ZooS, Circle Sub Zero temperature
Circle = Zero
1 T, D, Th Ten, DaTe, THick 1 is written Top-Down, “THe 1!”
2 N oN, Not, KNot Either oN or Not (binary, i.e. 2)
a cursive n has 2 humps
3 M Monkey, Man a cursive m has 3 humps
an m rotated 90 degrees looks like a 3
4 R Road, tuRkey a Road intersects another into 4 quadrants
5 L Love, eLephant Making an L shape with your hand requires all 5 fingers
6 J, Sh, Ch Jug, George, SHake the Jewish star has 6 points, CHurCH has 6 letters
7 K, C, Gu, Q Kick, Count, GUard, Quick 7 Candles on a menorah
–or, for french speakers–
a cassette (Ka-Sept, K7)
8 F, V FaVorite, Feel Fate (F8), Veracity has 8 letters
9 P, B Pizza, Bagel P is a flipped 9, the Baha’i star has 9 points

Once you lay out all the consonants that match each digit, you have to then come up with words that use those consonant sounds, fitted into a sentence that somewhat makes sense.

Here’s an Example

Let’s say we want to remember the number “9017896742”.

We have to first jot down all the corresponding consonant sounds, then come up with words that make a sentence, and finally imagine a memorable scene that evokes that sentence.

Steps 9 0 1 7 8 9 6 7 4 2
1. Write down consonant sounds P/B S/Z T/D K/G F/V P/B J/Sh K/G R N
2. Come up with words Be S T Gi ve Po sh G Rai N

Best give posh grain

(That’s what we need to remember!)

  1. Finally, imagine a scene that preferably involves you and is vivid.

You can picture an old grandmother pointing at you with her finger as you try to give your least favorite seeds to your fellow farmer neighbor. “Best give posh grain!” she scolds you in a croaky voice.

See? Not too bad!

If you’ve got another or better way to remember the associations above or numbers in general, please share!

Vahid Dejwakh
Vahid Dejwakh
Software Engineer at Microsoft;
Co-Creator of the Fjord Framework

Vahid writes about interesting ideas at the intersection of software, system design, data, philosophy, psychology, policy, and business. He enjoys coffee and has a palate for spicy and diverse foods.

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