How to TURBO-CHARGE Your Memory, So You Can Easily Remember ANY NUMBER




This is a neat little mnemonics system I have been using since about 1995. The technique is not listed on Wikipedia under their "mnemonics" entry, so therefore I would like to share it with the world via the godsend that is "Instructables."

With this tool I am about to teach you, with a tiny bit of work, you will forever be able to memorize everything from debit card PINs to friends and relatives phone numbers and even your student I.D. number, employer I.D. number, or social security number. All this from one tiny little system that you can master in about 30 minutes or less. If you utilize it regularly for only a short period of time it will become like second nature to you and you can consider it a permanent mod to your brain housing group until the day you die, or go insane, whichever comes first. But go insane you may, because you just may find yourself memorizing the strangest things once you learn this, like the phone number of the taxi service you used 2 years ago on that two-day business trip to Tampa, or that phone number from that billboard you saw 6 months ago that you promised yourself you would call... or the 22-digit card number from the last "Phone-Home to Mexico" phone card you had to buy at the liquor store...

I did not make this system up, my old platoon sergeant in the Marines made everyone learn this so we could memorize eight/six-digit grid coordinates, and I don't know where he got it but i still use it all the time...

Step 1: Learn the Basic "sound-number" System

The system is simple.

There are only TEN basic consonant sounds in the english language, when grouped by the position of the mouth when saying them.

And, coincidentally enough, there are only ten basic digits that make up any number in our current arabic number system. (1-9 and 0)

(And, in order to make full use of this system, I am also going to add a bonus step at the end of this instructable that will cement in your brain these corresponding consonant sounds with their numbers...)

Without further ado, here is the system:

Number = Consonant sounds (letters) = Position of Mouth (Just to further understand the correlations)

1 = duh, tuh (d, t) = open, with tongue against the back of the front teeth
2 = nuh (n) = open, with tongue against the roof of the mouth
3 = muh (m) = lips closed
4 = ruh (r) = open, with tongue not touching anything
5 = luh (l) = open, with only the tip of the tongue against the roof
6 = chuh, shuh, juh (ch, sh, j) = lips pursed, with tongue obstructing airflow at the top
7 = guh, kuh (g, k) = open, with back of the tongue covering top of the throat
8 = fuh, vuh (f, v) = front top teeth against lower lip
9 = buh, puh (b, p) = lips closed, with puff of air
0 = suh, zuh (s, z) = open, tip of tongue grazing the roof of the mouth

To further help you memorize which numbers go with which sounds, here is a list of "peg" words that work extremely well with this system ( I will talk more about these "peg" words in the bonus step):

1 tie
2 noah
3 ma
4 rye
5 law
6 shoe
7 cow
8 ivy
9 bee
10 toes

notice every number correlates with a word that has only one CONSONANT sound, with the exception of the number ten, which has two digits and corresponds to a word that has two consonant sounds...

Step 2: Practical App: Translate Any Number Into String of Consonant Sounds

For the purpose of this instructable, we are now going to translate a number into a string of consonant sounds.

Lets say you have to memorize a 4 digit PIN number that happens to be 0014. How are you going to reliably remember it, when you have a sea of other more meaning full numbers bouncing around in your brain?

Easy, translate it to the corresponding consonant sounds from the previous step. In this case, here is what you get:

0 = (s, z)
0 = (s, z)
1 = (t, d)
4 = (r)

Now, when you have digits like 0, 1, 6, 7, 8, and 9 where you get two choices of consonant sounds, don't panic, that is a good thing. Since they are similar sounds, you get to pick which one to use.

At this point, your goal is to come up with a meaningful word, expression or sentance out of the consonant sounds so you can easily memorize the word instead of the meaningless digits.

For this example, you just start sounding things out until you find one you like, using the consonant sounds and any combination of vowel sounds to go between them:
suh suh tuh ruh is extremely close to "sister" so lets use that. If you examine the word "sister" as consonant sounds you get this: ("His Star" also works)

s = 0
i = vowel so no number is represented
s = 0
t = 1
e = vowel so no number is represented
r = 4

So what does the word "sister" ALWAYS equal in this system? The number 0014!

Here is another example, just less "expanded."

Lets say you have to remember a phone number: 404-411-6720 (yes, it is a fictitious number)

lets break it down into consonant sounds first:

4 = r
0 = s/z
4 = r
4 = r
1 = t/d
1 = t/d
6 = ch/sh/j
7 = k/g
2 = n
0 = s/z

well, after sounding out this example, I came up with the somewhat nonsensical phrase:

"Ours are rated chickens." Or you could use "Razor-rided shock news" or "our sour, rotted chug nose."

Of the above, I would probably go with "Our sour, rotted chickens" because it makes a little sense. But, the point is, you can much more easily remember the phrase "our sour, rotted chickens" than you can 404-411-6720.

Plus, this is a good time to mention, half of memorizing something is actually putting in some mental effort into memorizing it. By making a word-game out of it, you may actually forget the phrase "our sour rotted chickens" but you may remember the sounds you had to juggle to come up with it, and thus, the number.

Also, this is a good place to point out, that if you have a lone consonant sound that can't really get linked to easily with others, you can make it into a freestanding word by putting a vowel sound in front and/or one in back. Like: 1 can equal the word "itty" or "auto" or "ad" or "ate" or "oat" etc.

And a note about the number 6, the sounds that this can represent are also the "dge" sound like at the beginning and end of "judge" and the end of "dodge" as well as the "tch" sound like in "itch" or "hatch," and the "jhew" sound like in "rouge" and "luge."

Step 3: Bonus Thoughts #1 - Memory Aids

Thats the system in a nutshell. Here is some bonus material to help you remember which families of consonant sounds (and which peg words) go with which number:

1 = "tie" = picture an image of a necktie... it kinda looks like the number one hanging up and down
2 = "noah" = picture the two legs of the letter "n", or picture the biblical noah storing 2 of each animal
3 = "ma" = picture the three legs of the letter "m"
4 = "rye" = picture the word "four" spelled out and the last letter is an "r,"
5 = "law" = picture the roman numeral for 50 is an "L"
6= "shoe" = this one you just have to remember
7 = "cow" = think of the letter K and how it has a verticle part and a backwards "7" in it
8 = "ivy" = think of the number 8 and how it is all curvy like vine growing on a house
9 = "bee" this one also you just have to remember
10 = "toes" think of how a "0" is pronounced "zero" and it starts with the "zuh" sound

Just for fun, here is a list of words and their corresponding numbers:

Mutton Chops (312690) Crazy Captain Michael (7407912375) Massive Shaolin Lip (30865259)

Incidentally, these are all odd numbers that I use frequently for different purposes, and I learned them all in about 5 minutes and will probably never forget them.

Also, since this whole system is based on consonant sounds, NEVER translate SILENT consonants. This will mess you up. Only translate consonants that are actually pronounced in the word.

For instance, the word "mnemonics" would be translated as the digits: 23270; "ptarmigan" would be: 14372; and "hymnal" would be: 325. "Butter" would be: 914.

Step 4: Bonus Thoughts #2: Practical Applications:

I have strange words written with sharpies on my lesser-used debit cards. These words like "sister," "umbrella," and "togatime" correspond to their PIN numbers.

Whenever I have to remember a fedex tracking number, I take about one minute and figure out the translated phrase and for the next week or so I can always remember the tracking number in case I am near an internet source but I don't have the email from my home computer with the tracking number. Very helpful.

Also, when starting a new job it seems like you always are bombarded with a deluge of numbers to memorize: login numbers, department codes, keypad code for the front door, new employee i.d. number, etc. etc. This is a very helpful way to impress the hell out of everyone when you are the first new guy that isn't having to ask everyone for the first month what these stupid little codes are.

So that's it. There is also another good memory device that works well with these number "peg" words, but I will save that for another instructable. Unless someone that sees this knows the system too and wants to pick up where I left off, in which case that would be great.

Thanks for reading this, and have a good one. Now GO MEMORIZE SOME NUMBERS!



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    22 Discussions

    so basically your making words that will help you remeber big big numbers? like words you say and remember another? anyways, i got a little confused. but m sure when im older i will understand this pretty well.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Forgot something at my mother-in-law's house the other night. Went back, had the key to the door, but someone had set the house alarm. No problem; I recited my little mnemonic phrase memorized using this system to myself while I punched in the numbers.

    Unfortunately, the phrase I was reciting was the PIN for my bank card, and not the one that goes with the house alarm. Yes, the siren woke everyone in the house at 2am. Yes, a police officer followed me home.


    11 years ago on Step 1

    Cute picture, says a person who has signed up before but lost their account.

    1 reply

    I wonder if it would help the initial memorization if one could come up with a sentence for counting to ten. Best I can do is a random assortment of words, like "Do no more. Lie. Shock. Fibs." or "Dynamo real chug vibes." Maybe for 0-9, it could be "Satin, my real chick vibe." Not sure if it would help, but I would think so, since the initial memorization seems to be the hardest part.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    I don&apost mean to be rude, but Noah didn&apost part the  sea, Moses did.Love the instructable though, Great job!
    2 replies

    Actually reminds me of a joke. Most people know (through memorization or otherwise) who Noah and Moses are. The joke goes: How many of each animal did Moses take on the ark? People usually have one of two responses. One is proud that they know there was two of each animal (which isn't technically a full answer anyhow), the other is looking for the trick in the question regarding the number (like maybe figuring out the bit I mentioned above). It's rare to find someone who instantly knows the right answer. Of course the answer is that Moses didn't build the ark, Noah did (of course, Moses did build the arc of the covenant, but that's obviously something else entirely). Now, to my point -- oh, I don't think there was one...


    10 years ago on Step 3

    Quote from Instructable:
    "9 = "bee" this one also you just have to remember"
    Simple just turn 9 180degrees.

    Quote from instructable:
    "5 = "law" = picture the roman numeral for 50 is an "L""
    More for those who have played the old Colin McCray on their PS1s: Imagine the car navigator saying 5 "Left into..." not into the larger roman numerals myself.

    Nice ible. May be I can learn my mobile number now >_<.


    11 years ago on Introduction includes this method, with some more examples of clever things you can do with it (card tricks and such).

    You can find phonetic dictionaries on the net, which can help you come up with longer words that match the required sounds.

    This is also a great thing to teach kids when they're at the age where secret codes and languages are cool and exciting.

    2 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks so much! I was skeptical until I went to that page! Now I've even created a sign language with that symbolize the sounds and the numbers. Yay!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    91852719521639092112 I encountered this system in The Memory Book. Makes me wonder why schools don't bother to teach this stuff - all the kids would ace most of the standardized testing, and they'd barely have to apply themselves. Probably because nobody wants to believe that learning is really about memorizing things. Wisdom is about applying said learned things.

    2 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I agree that this is a cool trick. I am a fanatic for teaching my students cool memory tricks to help free up their brains for more important work than memorization. But I am wondering if you can explain how the application of this mnemonic device would allow "all the kids" to "ace most of the standardized testing". I am not sure how a trick for memorizing strings of numbers (like a credit card number)will help students recall the correct method for displaying information from a table in a graphic form, or finding the main idea in a paragraph, or using coordinates to find a location on a map, or knowing how to convert fractions. Maybe I just don't understand that learning is really about memorizing things...


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I wasn't referring to only "this" system, although most of the examples you ask for use at least this system.

    I'm not sure if you're referring to Cartesian coordinates (X-Y axes) as "the correct method for displaying ... table [information]", but that's basically the opposite from using coordinates.

    Also I'm not sure the specific use of "converting fractions" you're referring to. Converting to decimal form? Reducing? Converting to the LCD? Converting to mm? There are various conversions to apply, and they are "all" a memory game.

    For instance, take the fraction 1/4. A simple fraction, and I'm sure most people here can quickly convert it to 0.25, 2/8, 3/12, 4/16, 25/100 etc. etc.

    I'm equally sure that at least some of those people don't think, "Now let's see, four times two is eight, and one times two is two, so that's two eighths!" And I'm sure most, if not "all", don't think, "Now let's see, one divided by four, that's 1.0 or 10, four goes into that twice, so 0.2, bring down the remainder two, that's twenty, and four times five is twenty, so 1/4 = 0.25"

    I know I didn't. It came straight from memory. The more one uses conversions, the quicker they fall into "rote" memory. But with the use of memory systems, you "actually" remember, instead of spending time trying to remember, a la flashcards, etc. -- it's really a one time shot.

    The difference between learning and comprehension is that someone would say I have "learned" that 1/4 = 0.25, while it's perfectly possible that I don't comprehend exactly what that means (and I'd guess that most people don't).

    As far as finding the main idea in a paragraph, that must be new on tests, mine always asked questions specific about bits of information. Reading and memorizing as you read, provides you with a quick access times. And this particular system also helps you memorize the handy line numbers provided in every standardized test "I" recall taking :P

    I'd check out The Memory Book, by Harry Lorrayne and Jerry Lucas, at least. Harry Lorrayne also has various other books, more specific to students.

    (Oh, and I'm fairly certain that 90%+ of questions on standardized testing have nothing to do with "understanding" in a philosophical sense. It's all memorization, really. Unless they've REALLY changed since I took the ACT around 5 years ago. Only essay tests can really be designed to test understanding. "Explain the effect of 'The First 100 Days' on the American economy:" Requires understanding. "Which President was responsible for 'The First 100 Days': a) Teddy Roosevelt, b) Hugo Chavez, c) King George, d) Harry S. Truman, e) None of the above" only requires memorization. Which format does the SAT/ACT follow? a) essay, or b) multiple choice ;) )

    Until college (and even in most of /my/ college classes), the most important work was what I memorized. That's why I did *very* well in reading, and sucked in math.



    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Technically it should work for spanish as well, with minor adaptations at most. The only issue would be with the r sound. I would probably convert the r to perhaps the "ll" or y sound. It's really all about the position of the vocal apparatus: lips, teeth, tongue. I'm sure if you think about it you could come up with substitutes.

    I think this system is generally known as the "Major System" by those that are keen on the use of mnemonics. You will find it in plenty of improve-your-memory books.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Very cool, i just have one problem, english isn't my mother language... *lol* This helps a lot, thanks!