Key Areas For Memory Improvement
Share |
Remembering Numbers
Telephone numbers, dates, license plate numbers, PIN numbers, bank accounts, addresses, zip codes, employee numbers, and so forth. Your life is filled with numbers that you depend on.

Unfortunately numbers are one of the most difficult things to remember since they are purely abstract. It is easier to picture an alligator performing ballet in a pink tutu then it is to visualize the number 377642.

One little trick you can use to remember numbers for a short period of time is called ‘chunking’. You take a long number and break it down into smaller chunks.

The number 4191153594 would be hard to remember even for a short time but if you chunk it into blocks like 419-115-3594 you will find it much easier to remember. A number like this telephone number can be placed in short-term memory long enough to dial but if you want to place numbers in long term memory you will need to use the Phonetic Alphabet.

If you have not learned the phonetic alphabet please study this page (Poems, Acronyms, Rhymes, & Acrostics) first.

In the phonetic alphabet you learned the corresponding consonant values to the ten basic digits 0-9 and the rules for applying the alphabet. For review the consonant sounds are:
0 = z, s, c (soft)
1 = t or d
2 = n
3 = m
4 = r
5 = l
6 = j, ch, sh, g (soft)
7 = k, c (hard), g (hard)
8 = v, f, ph
9 = b or p
You can use this system to transpose any number into letters, letters into words or phrases, then these are associated to what the number represents. For larger numbers you will also make use of the link system.

To illustrate let’s apply this technique to a variety of numbers:

PIN numbers are important to remember since writing them down and keeping them in your purse or wallet is potentially dangerous. The PIN 9410 would transpose as follows:
9 to b or p
4 to r
1 to t or d
0 to z, s, or soft c
This offers different possibilities including these words:
p - a - r - t - s
p - o - r - t - s
p - a - rr - o - t - s
b - oa - r - d - s
Because filler vowels are ignored and double letters count as one sound each of these words will transpose back to the PIN number 9410.

You pick a word and associate it to what the number represents. If you picked parrots you could associate it with a banking machine and visualize two parrots sitting on the machine and squawking out your PIN number whenever you insert the bank card. The word parrots will always transpose to your PIN number.

It is also convenient to have important phone numbers committed to memory. Maybe you want to be able to recall the phone number for your good friend in Bologna, Italy. The number is 051-945-0149 which transposes to:
0 to z, s, or soft c
5 to l
1 to t or d
9 to b or p
4 to r
5 to l
0 to z, s, or soft c
1 to t or d
4 to r
9 to b or p
Since it would be almost impossible to find a single word to represent this number you must chunk it. Following the phone number’s normal breaks is a good idea. This offers:
051 = salt, sold, sailed, etc.
945 = parole, barrel, barley, etc.
0149 = strap, stripe, stirrup, etc.
As you can see there are a number of word combinations that can be used. You pick the one that you feel will make the most vivid association. For example, you might visualize that your friend sailed to Italy in a wooden barrel using a big shiny stirrup as an anchor.

Remember, the more zany and ludicrous your images the better they will be encoded. Once you have firmly established the association and the links it is a straightforward process to transpose the link words back into numbers.

This system can be used to remember very long numbers. Simply chunk the number into smaller groups of digits. Three digits per group is usually easy to work with in terms of transposing the digits into a word. Then use the link system to join the words together. When you are finished you will be able to recall the number both forwards and backwards because you will have memorized the link words that represent the numbers.

Another memory technique that is useful for small numbers is the acrostic. If your library number is 2958 you would create an acrostic based on the letters N-P-L-F. Because it is a library number you might choose Never Pay Late Fees and associate this with returning books to the library.

If you have a need to commit many numbers to memory you will need to master the phonetic alphabet. A good way to develop your skills is to practice the technique with numbers you encounter in your day to day experiences. Transpose the numbers into their consonant sounds. Conversely take words from your surroundings and convert them into their numerical equivalents. Soon the phonetic alphabet will be a permanent part of your memory arsenal.

Quick Review:
  • Numbers are the most difficult things to remember because they are abstract and intangible.
  • Large numbers are easier to remember when they are ‘chunked’ into smaller groups.
  • Use the phonetic alphabet to transpose numbers into letters and the letters into words or phrases.
  • Use the Link method to remember the words created from the numbers in the proper order.
  • You can also use acrostics with the phonetic alphabet to help you remember small numbers.
Visit Our Bookstore
Buy the Amazing Memory eBook!