If you want to know how to memorize numbers, you might be getting frustrated.
After all, there is a ton of confusing information about the main remembering numbers technique known as the Major System.
There’s also the question of just how many numbers can a person remember? Not to mention how to remember numbers with a Memory Palace.
In this post, I will show you:
- The Major System that allows you memorize numbers with letters and words.
- How to connect the Major System with a Memory Palace.
- How to expand the Major System into a PAO or 00-99 system.
Or you can just watch the video version of this lesson:
No matter how you choose to learn these techniques, this is important:
Your goal is to shift the burden of memorizing numbers to remembering fun and straightforward images.
This simple activity will reduce the cognitive load on your brain and make learning and remembering any number exciting and fun.
Simple Mnemonic Examples Of How To Memorize Numbers
Have a look at this image:
This is a nun.
She represents the number 22 in the 00-99 Major System I use.
Every time I see 22, I bring this nun to mind (I actually imagine Mr. Bean dressed as a nun. More on why later…)
I do this because if I next see the number 235, I can see an animal, it’s easy for me to use the Major System (better described as the Major Method) to add another image.
When the nun interacts with the animal in an unusual way, I’m able to remember a longer digit with ease: 22357.
The Major System That Underlies The Remembering Numbers Technique
To get to the stage where you can use nuns and animals, you need to understand why 22 is a nun and 235 is an animal.
The Major System has different terms, including:
- The Phonetic Number System
- Phonetic Mnemonic System
- Number Consonant System
- Herigone’s Mnemonic System
- … and more.
The exact history of it is not known, but in Mind Map Mastery, Tony Buzan attributes it to Johann Just Winckelmann.
Others cite Aimé Paris and Major Beniowski, from whom we most likely take the name, Mnemonic Major System.
And that’s just in the west. The Katapayadi system goes back at least to 869 BCE.
Although there are many variations and you can make up your own, a large number of people use an arrangement like this:
0 = soft c, s or z
1 = d, t
2 = n
3 = m
4 = r
5 = l
6 = ch, j or sh
7 = k
8 = f or v
9 = b or p
In this way, I came up with Nun for 22, but perhaps you would prefer a piece of naan bread. Try to make sure that you have a vowel between the two consonants, but if that doesn’t work for you, a word like “onion” is also acceptable.
It’s really up to you, but I suggest that you avoid abstract concepts like “noon.” If you want to use “noon,” make sure it is a clock with its hands pointed at noon, and maybe include Gary Cooper who starred in High Noon to make it even more concrete.
Likewise with a word like “anon.” This word could make an excellent Magnetic Image for 22, but only if you make it concrete, such as by having James Woods with a particular book.
Why James woods? Because he starred in My Name is Bill W. about the origins of Alcoholics Anonymous.
I realize this specificity requires you to stretch your imagination, but its excellent brain exercise (better than any app) and is the secret of how to get a solid 00-99 working from the beginning. (Instead of having to fuss with it for years and potentially give up, as others sadly do.)
How To Expand Your Major System Into A Full 00-99 List
To expand the rules that underly the phonetic Major System is easy. I suggest you take it 5-10 sets at a time.
But first, get a Memory Journal so you have a place to chart down your ideas on paper.
Overall, the best way to learn how to memorize numbers using this approach would go like this:
1. Get a Memory Journal for completing the creative task
2. On a new page, copy the start with 00 and write all the numbers up until 10.
3. Starting with 00, think of words that begin and end with ‘S.’ I personally use Thomas Szasz, but many use Dr. Suess. Sissy Spacek would also work or a pair of eyeglasses built by Zeiss. Many other options are equally concrete. If you choose Zeus, use the character from Planet of the Apes or a clear painting or cartoon of Zeus so you’re not relying on a vague concept.
4. Proceed to 01. For me, this is “sad,” and I see the tragedy mask worn by William Shatner in his performance of Oedipus Rex.
5. Keep going for about 5-10 minutes and take a break. It’s important to relax and revive your creative muscles.
How To Memorize Numbers Encoded With Images In A Memory Palace
First things first, you’ll need to know how to create a Magnetic Memory Palace. Here’s your ticket for that:
Next, start with your first Magnetic Station in the Memory Palace. If you used Dr. Suess, place him on the first Magnetic Station. If you used the sad tragedy mask for 01, place it on the next station.
You can do this in small sets or get more ambitious and work on larger sets. The critical point is that you use Recall Rehearsal to get the images into long-term memory.
For many people, this step will not be necessary because they can deduce like Sherlock Holmes what their images are by relying on the Major System.
For example, I didn’t learn my 00-99 using a Memory Palace. I only needed to think about the Major for each digit and track back to the image I chose.
The Major Mistake I Made When Creating My
First Phonetic Mnemonic System
When I created my first list for math based on the science of mnemonics, many of the images were not concrete enough.
To this day, I keep strengthening them and find many opportunities to do so. For example, I use to have a very generic idea of “fire” for 84.
But I later evolved this image to Chuck Norris in Missing in Action 2 with a flamethrower. I did not have to invent this image because there is a classic scene in the movie where he burns down a bridge with a flamethrower.
And that is the beauty of using the Major Method to memorize numbers. By letting its rules set you free, your imagination will come up with many powerful associations. It is also a great way to strengthen your ability to make associations if you need the developmental exercise. (Many people do.)
How To Extend Your 00-99 to A Person Action Object System
So far we’ve talked about giving each digit an image from 00-99.
Many people like to have a triple-whammy effect by having at least three different elements going on for each digit.
To be honest, I have never found this necessary or entirely useful in everyday life. However, in the world of memory competition, it is a must.
That said, my own method of working often includes most of Person Action Object criteria.
For example, the 01 tragedy mask is both a person and an object: It is the tragedy mask (the object) worn by William Shatner (the person). To add an action would be easy: he could be soaping it up with suds.
Although I would be making a leap of the imagination by turning “suds” into a verb, this could work very well.
To take another example, I have Jim Carrey with a lyre (stringed instrument) for 54. I could have him using it to “lure” something or someone to add an action, but I don’t need this specificity for my personal memory practice.
The reason I don’t have a full PAO (sometimes falsely lumped in as a Mnemonic Peg System) for each digit is that I prefer flexibility. In real life, you do not have to beat the clock the same way you do in a memory competition.
You are also using numbers you want to memorize for the long term, like banking info, phone numbers and passwords. These are not random digits heard or read at an event that you’re going to forget minutes after submitting your results.
To that end, I prefer to choose how my Magnetic Images interact with each other on the fly.
Obviously, this approach is different than the Dominic System (or Hotel Dominic) or the system Ben Pridmore uses, etc.
And at the end of the day, that’s the incredible and mind-blowing truth:
Tony Buzan is right:
The rules will set you free. Especially if you follow his approach to mind mapping.
Each person always uses these techniques individually. And although ultimately you must find your own path, you are free to do so by leaning on the classic techniques and paying attention to the Magnetic Memory Method principles of being specific and concrete. And of course there’s more to learn in How to Memorize Math, Numbers, Simple Arithmetic and Equations.
And now that you know the options available to you, you can easily learn how to memorize numbers quickly. Because…
Learning To Use Mnemonics For Numbers Is Easy And Fun!
Now that you have these strategies, I suggest you listen to my interview with Brad Zupp. He explains his story and perspective from the realm of competition and practical use of these techniques as a mental passwords manager.
How do these approaches to remembering numbers strike you?
If you have any experiences you’d care to share or have any questions, post them below.
You got this!