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

NumberConsonant soundPhonetic ExamplesHow to remember this association
0S, ZSiZe, ZooS, CircleSub Zero temperature
Circle = Zero
1T, D, ThTen, DaTe, THick1 is written Top-Down, “THe 1!”
2NoN, Not, KNotEither oN or Not (binary, i.e. 2)
a cursive n has 2 humps
3MMonkey, Mana cursive m has 3 humps
an m rotated 90 degrees looks like a 3
4RRoad, tuRkeya Road intersects another into 4 quadrants
5LLove, eLephantMaking an L shape with your hand requires all 5 fingers
6J, Sh, ChJug, George, SHakethe Jewish star has 6 points, CHurCH has 6 letters
7K, C, Gu, QKick, Count, GUard, Quick7 Candles on a menorah
–or, for french speakers–
a cassette (Ka-Sept, K7)
8F, VFaVorite, FeelFate (F8), Veracity has 8 letters
9P, BPizza, BagelP 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.

1. Write down consonant soundsP/BS/ZT/DK/GF/VP/BJ/ShK/GRN
2. Come up with wordsBeSTGivePoshGRaiN

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
Founder at Briefcat, LLC & Capstone Participant, Launch School

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

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