Episode #4 of the course How to improve your memory by David Urbansky
Hi there, remember me? Today, I’ll teach you a few techniques for memorizing numbers. This skill can be useful in a variety of scenarios: remembering door codes, debit card pins, historic dates, or the numbers for your usual orders at your favorite Chinese restaurant.
Numbers are abstract, and this makes them especially difficult to memorize. As you (hopefully) recall, memorization techniques rely on association, imagination, and location. In the techniques we’ll learn today, we’ll use the first two to turn digits into words or images to make them more memorable.
Turning Numbers into Sentences
To turn a sequence of numbers into a sentence, replace each number in the sequence with a word that has as many letters as the number’s value. For example, you could replace 2 with “we,” 3 with “you,” and so on. To memorize the first eight digits of pi, you could use the sentence “How I wish I could enumerate pi easily” => 3.1415926
If you’re a visual thinker, the next two techniques can help you remember numbers by creating an association between each of the ten digits and an image.
Transform each digit into an image that sounds like the number. I’ll provide examples for the first five digits to give you an idea how the technique works, but you should make your own because your associations might bring up something else. Mnemonics are highly personal!
0 (zero) sounds like “hero” (picture Superman with his cape waving in the wind).
1 (one) sounds like “ton” (picture an anvil with a T on it).
2 (two) sounds like “boo” (picture a ghost emoji).
3 (three) sounds like “tree” (picture a Christmas tree).
4 (four) sounds like “door” (picture a large wooden door with a wreath).
Instead of using the pronunciation of the digit, here, you will create an association between the number’s shape and an image. Again, here are some examples, but absolutely create your own.
0 looks like a ring.
1 looks like a blow poke.
2 looks like a cobra dancing for a snake charmer.
3 looks like the top of a heart set on its side: <3.
4 looks like a sail from a sailboat.
Once you have created your own number-to-image associations, you can then memorize abstract numbers as a sequence of images. To connect the images, you should use the link method, in which you always connect one image to another. For example, to remember the words pizza, tree, water, and lamp, you must remember pizza+tree, then tree+water, then water+lamp.
Let’s create a sequence of images to represent “41302” using the examples above. I see a sail (4) with a blow poke (1) as its mast. Now I have one image with these two numbers. Following the link method, I now have to create an image with the blowpoke and a heart (3). So, I picture the blow poke and it has speared a heart. The heart is an ornament on a ring (0). I mentally zoom in on the ring and see a tiny cobra slithering inside (2).
Remembering Pin Codes
With the techniques above, remembering a four-digit pin code should be no challenge for you. Nonetheless, any numbers that you normally enter into a ten-digit keypad can also be memorized by creating a small image that connects the code numbers. I personally use this technique to remember my phone and debit card pins. Here are a few examples of pin code images:
Exercise: Create either a number-sound or a number-shape system of your own. Use it to remember a random ten-digit number using the link method.
Phew, you learned a lot today, and you are already better equipped to improve your memory! Tomorrow, it is time to learn about your spatial memory and how to make use of it with memory palaces.
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