The “Major Method” or “Major System” for memorizing numbers is not called “major” because most mnemonists use it (they do). It’s given this name because history has tended to attribute the memory technique to Major Beniowski.

For more on its history, check out this YouTube Playlist, Get Good at Remembering Numbers:

As discussed in that first video, we now know that an earlier version of the Major Method existed, one invented by Aimé Paris.

This French scholar, renowned for his approach to number memorization, earned the honorable title “professeur de mnemonique”  from the Athenee University in Paris in the early 1800s.

In scientific literature, you’ll encounter terms like “phonetic mnemonic system” and “digit-consonant system.” These aren’t nearly as sexy as the “Major System,” so I recommend sticking with the term most people know.

I also recommended registering for my FREE Memory Improvement Kit and the free training videos that come along with it:

Free Memory Palace Memory Improvement Course

Regardless of its name, the Major Method works by associating numbers with sounds. Typically, each number is connected with a consonant. Most people use this pattern:
0 = soft c, s or zMajor System Mnemonic Example showing an image for memorizing 22 using a nun
1 = d, t
2 = n
3 = m
4 = r
5 = l
6 = ch, j or sh
7 = k
8 = f or v
9 = p

The next step is to combine the sounds you’ve made. For example, 22 could be “nun.” You simply add a vowel to the two letters to make a word.

Based on this principle, you can make a sound-word association with any number. This will help you memorize long digits, eventually equations, or even info related to Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies.

But let’s start simple:

Take 235, for example. There are different possibilities, but “animal” is the first thing that comes to my mind. What comes to yours?

 

Image of a tiger for memorizing a number with the Major System or major method

Add A Memory Palace To The Major System

 

Memory Palace work technically belongs to the term, “method of loci.”

Personally, I think that term is outmoded. It’s cool, sure, but people often mispronounce “loci” and I tend to think that even a small confusion like this turns too many people away from a method they would try if they could only encounter it in English.

That’s why I always use the term “Memory Palace.”

There’s a lot to say about creating Memory Palaces, but in brief, these are mental constructs you build in your imagination. You base them on real locations.

Like your house.

Or your school.

Or your church, your favorite movie theater or restaurant.

The important thing is to create a mental journey through the Memory Palace that is clear and crisp so that you don’t have to think about it.

Just keep it simple.

The first time around, try to find 10 “stations” along your journey that you can come across in a linear manner. Do so without trapping yourself in the Memory Palace or crossing your own path.

Why?

Lots of reasons. For one thing, it costs mental energy if you’re crossing your own path.

And if you trap yourself, you can’t add more stations.

That sucks. You always want to be able to add more stations so that you can memorize more information.

(And for that matter, once you’ve built your first Memory Palace, build another. You can never have too many.)

There’s a lot more to the art of creating Memory Palaces, but these few basics will get you started.

Memorize Numbers Along The Memory Palace Journey

 

Now that you understand how to use the Major System to make images from the association of numbers with sounds (like “nun” or “animal”), it’s time to store those images so that you can recall those numbers at any time.

So let’s say that you want to remember the number “22235.” That could be “nun animal.”

And let’s say that you’ve got a Memory Palace that starts with your bedroom. (And it starts with your bedroom because this is the best place for the journey to begin in a way that lets you avoid trapping yourself and crossing your own path).

In order to make this number even more memorable now that we have a place to “stick” it …

We Need To “Magnetize” The Imagery

 

How do we do that? A nun attacking a tiger to show how to use the Major System to memorize a longer number

Easy.

We turn it into imagery that is large and filled with zany action. Like how about having a nun attack a tiger? That would be pretty memorable, wouldn’t it?

Once you’ve done this, move to the next station in the Memory Palace and then memorize the next number.

Or perhaps it isn’t a number at all. Perhaps it’s a historical date that you need to associate with some information about certain political events. Like the Jay’s Treaty with Britain, or something like that.

By starting with that specific date (by now you can come up with a mnemonic image of your own), you’ll be able to “encode” the information in images and then revisit it whenever you want to “decode” it.

Pretty cool, right?

It is, and even works for memorizing music or even the zodiac. For these or any other purposes, please make sure that you also know …

 

How to Get Information Into Long Term Memory

 

This is important.

Although you will increase your ability to memorize this information greatly by not only creating a crazy image and sticking it in a Memory Palace, you can and should  lock it down for the long haul.

You do this by revisiting the imagery several times.

It’s really easy. You’ve created a Memory Palace and you know exactly where to look for that tiger-attacking nun.

And if you’ve got ten pieces of information along that journey, it’s easy to travel it and decode each image. It’s almost like watching a movie.

I recommend that you revisit that journey and watch that movie you’ve created (making sure to decode the imagery and practice retrieving the information) at least 5 times the first day.

 

What To Do If You Have An Exam Coming Up

 

If you’ve got an exam coming up, I’d recall the numbers five times a day for a week and then at least 1-2 times a week thereafter. Do this for as long as you want to keep the imagery fresh and available.

It will probably still be there if you don’t perform this Magnetic Memory Method Recall Rehearsal, but you might have to fish around for it.

But if you’re serious about being able to recall the information, you’ll revisit it more than a few times to get it down cold. That’s just how the method of loci works best. Every good Memory Palace book stresses the same point.

And the best part is that you’ve done so without having to use index cards or any weird and boring stuff like that. The only time that it’s good to repeat information over and over again is when you’re using your imagination to do it. That makes both your memory and your imaginative abilities stronger and stronger.

 

Intermediate & Advanced Major System Techniques For Memorizing Numbers

Once you have the basics of the Major Method down, you might want to learn how to create a Person Action Object (PAO) or 00-99 system. For that, please check out The 3 Most Powerful Techniques For Memorizing Numbers.

These next-level techniques for memorizing numbers will then help you in other areas, such as human anatomy.

You can also think about using a Major System to help you memorize any book. Basically how it works is by having images for each page based on the page number.

For example, if you want to memorize a fact on page 75 of a book, you use an image built from the Major System to remember the location in the book. Then you use the page as the Memory Palace.

I did exactly this when I wanted to recall a point about episodic memory in Maps of Meaning. I turned 75 into John Cale and had him interacting with Freud and Shakespeare, who are related to memory science related to how we remember ancient wisdom.

For more advanced techniques related to your reading, learn how to memorize a textbook.

And remember: The more you learn, the more you can learn.

10 Responses to " The Major Method System To Memorize Numbers And Get Them Into Long Term Memory "

  1. Tim says:

    VERY INTERESTING!

  2. ENSA NYASSI says:

    Thanks. This is very interesting. I will surely try it out.

  3. Joe Parisi says:

    Any thoughts on numbers that repeat like 2226 how would you do that? Picturing 3 versions of Noah? I am new to this appreciate the insight.

    • Thanks for asking about this, Joe.

      Yes, I would use a 00-99 PAO for this.

      22 = Nun

      26 = John Nash

      Having an image for every 2-digit number from 00-99 allows you to “chunk” more than one number into a single image. This makes the process much faster.

      You can also go for a 000-999 system or even a 0000-9999 or higher if you wish. But for most of us, a 00-99 is just fine.

      If you want to stick with just the Major System on its own, then yes, an image with 3 swans or Noah would be fine. It’s not as refined as having a 00-99, though.

      Please let me know if you have further questions. We might do a guided number course starting next week, so let me know if you’d like to be notified about that. 🙂

  4. Casey says:

    couldn’t a 0-9 PAO system maybe have a little easier application (and memorization) since it only requires you to memorize 30 images instead of 100 (or 300 for a PAO) but you could still work with 3 digit numbers at a time (which should work ok for math stuff right?), or even 9 digits with only 3 images, and most math (that’s not competitive that is) doesn’t seem to need much more then that.

    • I’m not sure what you mean by 0-9 requiring only 30 images, Casey. I don’t know, so by all means develop and test this system and explain it on a YouTube video if it works for you.

      If it doesn’t, you might consider more training to avoid having an incomplete understanding of the teaching.

      For example, you should never need to memorize your images if you’re creating the system correctly. The only thing that requires memorization is either the Major System or whatever alternative you’re using to encode the digits with consonants. All of the images from that point on our selected from existing mental content, thus eliminating the need to memorize anything.

      Memorizing the Major is a small task, though I can appreciate why it feels like a big one. Developing the 00-99, however, is something that is not something that is ever complete. You can go on adding more and more possible solutions as you develop as a learner. It is something that lives, breathes and evolves.

      I show how this works and my own process of evolving the 00-99 in the numbers course, which is part of the MMM Masterclass. There’s a full walkthrough.

      After the system has been developed, it’s all just practice and evolution through practice after that. 🙂

  5. MAURICIO F MARTINEZ says:

    Could you elaborate on the logic assigning the value pairs?
    I don’t see how

    0 is related to s? In anyway or
    1 = t/d
    2 = n
    3 = m
    4 = r….
    Etc
    Just memorizing this seems like a huge task.

    Thanks in advance

    • Thanks for your question, Mauricio.

      First, if the mind of the learner isn’t used to these techniques, it can seem like a lot of work. However, just about everyone looks back and wonders why they over though 10 simple associations was tough. They usually wish they had just gotten started sooner.

      There may have been a logic to these associations in the beginning, but we don’t really know. It goes back to ancient India, however, and this version arose in France.

      If you sound out d and t, you’ll notice that your tongue hits approximately the same part of your mouth. Likewise with some of the others where you have variations.

      If you don’t like these choices, by all means change them around. Over the years, it seems to me that most people use this version though.

      If you make a 10-station Memory Palace, you should be able to memorize these associations relatively quickly. After that, it’s just practice.

      Does this answer help you out?

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