Memorizing Numbers

This is the most fun, because this is the skill that really blows people’s minds. When you can write down the first 100 decimal places of Pi, while you’re talking to people about something else, people literally don’t know how to comprehend it. And when you tell them that it took you a total of about 25 minutes, they don’t know whether to call you a liar or burn you at the stake.

But it’s not a lie. And it’s not witchcraft. It is a skill. The same skillset you have already learned: association, substitution and repetition. It is just as easy as memorizing a list of vocabulary words or a grocery list. Sometimes easier.

But there is a twist on the substitution here that you need to wrap your brain around, first. But before that, I have a trick that is going to make wrapping your brain around it a whole lot easier. So to start off, we are going to learn a new hook list for the numbers 1-10: the Body List. We’re going to work from the ground up. Some of the options might seem weird, but there is a method to the madness.  Quickest way to memorize the list below would be to associate your number-shape hooks to each body part. Remember, ABSURD.

The Body List:

1. Toes
2. Knees
3. Mid-thigh
4. Rear end
5. Love handles
6. Chest
7. Collar Bone
8. Face
10. Scalp

So, stab your TOE with an ARROW. Watch as a SWAN hatches from your KNEE and a MOUNTAIN grows from your MID-THIGH, etc. And so on.

Take some time and get this list down. Get Get with it. It will make what comes next a lot easier.

The technique were about to learn will include a list with 100 unique hooks. If you use the color modifier list with it, you get 1000 hooks you can use. Using chains of 5 images, you will have the capacity to instantly commit 5000 facts to memory without breaking a sweat.

More importantly, it will enable you to turn long-digit numbers into images as easily as you can with words.

So how do we do it?

The Phonetic Alphabet

Phonetics are the sounds that letters make. That is an important distinction. The sounds. Because what we are about to do will allow you to turn long strings of numbers into words. And to do that, we are going to assign the sounds that letters make to the numbers 1-9. And we are going to base it on the initial sounds from the body list. So the number 1 (Toe) gets the “t” sound. 2 (knee) is trickier, because the k is silent. The initial SOUND is the “n” sound. Another place where it gets tricky is because some letters make more than one sound. A hard C makes the “k” sound while a soft c makes an “s” sound. And double letters (like the T’s in “letters”) often only make a single letter sound.

Just remember, we’re focusing on the sounds, not the letters themselves. I promise this will all make sense before we’re done. Let’s get to the list

1 = “t”

2= “n”

3= “m”

4= “r”

5= “L”

6= “Ch”

7= “K”

8= “f”

9= “b”

Ten in our body list is a special case, because it’s two digits, and we’re focusing on single numerals here. So we’re going to drop the “1” and make it a “0”

0= “s”

So each number has a specific letter sound. But now we’re going to broaden it a little bit. We are going to assign some similar sound to a few numbers, based on how the sounds are made. When you make the “t” sound, you do so by placing the tip of the tongue against the back of the top front teeth, and then forcing the air out in a “ta” sound. The “d” is made in exactly the same way… the only difference is that the “t” sound is just air while the “d” sound includes the vocal cords (try making the “d” sound without using your voice; it comes out as a “t” sound).

Similarly, the “k” and “hard c” sounds are made in a similar fashion as the hard “g” sound, by closing the throat and then forcing air out at once. And the “f” and “v” sounds are similar, and are also often represented as “–ough” (rough).

So we expand our list a bit:

1= t, th-, and d

2=n

3=m

4=r

5=l

6= ch, sh, j, soft g, and –tio/tia (nation)

7= k, hard c, hard k, hard ch (tech), hard g

8= f, v, -gh

9= b, p

0= s, soft c, z

Again the trick is to start with the initial sounds from the body list hooks. Once you’ve memorized those, the other fall in line pretty quickly.

If you notice, there are some letter sounds that aren’t represented here. First, there are no vowels. Second, the letter W, H and Y are missing. This is what gives is the flexibility to turn the numbers into words.

Here’s an example: Pi = 3.1415

3.1415 translates to m t r t l. What we want to do now is sprinkle in some vowel sounds and see if we can make some words appear. An easy way is to simply try to pronounce the letters as they appear. When I do it, it comes out something like matartle, which instantly sounds to me like My Turtle or Ma Turtle, either of which is a strong image.

Let’s try another 9265 could be bnchl or pnshl or bnjl or bnshl. Picking one and dropping in vowels quickly: “banshal” “benshel” “binshil” “bonshol”or “bunshul” Two things kind of jump out at me the word Shell (remember: the letters “ll” only give us a single “l” sound)  and the word Bone. Bone Shell.

Now, 9265 is actually the next four digits in Pi. So 3.14159265 now gives us Ma Turtle Bone Shell. If you picture your mom (or whatever image “Ma” conjures up for you) wearing a large, bleached, bony turtle shell… you have the first 9 digits of pi contained in a single image.

This one will take some practice. But with a little practice you will be able to look at the numbers and automatically read them as letter-sounds.

Three easy steps to practice, and you can master this technique in 1 week.

1. A couple of times a day, quiz yourself on which letter sounds the numbers represent. Write down the numbers 0-9, and then list what sounds each represents. Pick a random number and list its associated sounds. Do this until you get it right every time.
2. Do it in reverse: pick random words or words on signs or pages or on the TV, and translate them into the numbers they would represent. This tends to be easier, and is a good way to get familiar with linking letters to number sounds.
3. Write down a number of at least 5 digits. It can be random, or a telephone number or any other number. Set a timer for 2 minutes and see how many words you can make to represent that number. If you can’t make a word or words from the number sounds you’re given, remember, W, H and Y are freebies. Drop them in and see if it gives you more options to work with.

This is a dense one, and probably the one technique that is more involved. But it is still simply substitution. You are substituting the numbers for letter sounds, which allows you to substitute numbers with words in order to create a mnemonic image you brain can hold onto.

It can seem daunting or overwhelming, but take it one step at a time. Learn the letter sounds first. Then practice turning words into numbers. THEN practice turning numbers into words. Do it in that order, and you’ll be good to go in a week, and ready to learn not only numbers like dates and phone numbers, part numbers and math constants, but you’ll be on your way to memorizing entire equations, and more.