The Number/Rhyme Mnemonic

Remembering Ordered Lists

1=Bun

© iStockphoto/OlegSam

The Number/Rhyme technique is a very simple way of remembering lists in order.

It is an example of a peg system using – a system where information is 'pegged' to a known sequence (here the numbers one to ten) to create pegwords. By doing this you ensure that you do not forget any facts, as gaps in information are immediately obvious. It also makes remembering images easier as you always know part of the mnemonic images.

At a simple level you can use it to remember things such as a list of English Kings or American Presidents in their precise order. At a more advanced level it can be used, for example, to code lists of experiments to be recalled in a science exam.

How to Use the Tool

The technique works by helping you to build up pictures in your mind, in which you represent numbers by things that rhyme with the number. You can then link these pictures to images of the things to be remembered.

The usual rhyming scheme is:

  1. Bun
  2. Shoe
  3. Tree
  4. Paw
  5. Hive
  6. Bricks
  7. Heaven
  8. Gate
  9. Line
  10. Hen

If you find that these images do not attract you or stick in your mind, then change them for something more meaningful.

Link these images to ones representing the things to be remembered. Often, the sillier the compound image, the more effectively you will remember it – see the introduction to this chapter to see how you can improve the image to help it stay clearly in your mind.

Example

For example, you could remember a list of ten Greek philosophers as:

  1. Parmenides – a BUN topped with grated yellow PARMEsan cheese.
  2. Heraclitus – a SHOE worn by HERACLes (Greek Hercules) glowing with a bright LIghT.
  3. Empedocles – a TREE from which the M-shaped McDonalds arches hang hooking up a bicycle PEDal.
  4. Democritus – a PAW print on the voting form of a DEMOCRaTic election.
  5. Protagoras – a bee HIVE being hit by an atomic PROTon.
  6. Socrates – BRICKS falling onto a SOCk (with a foot inside!) from a CRATe.
  7. Plato – a plate with angel's wings flapping around a white cloud.
  8. Aristotle – a GATE being jumped by a bewigged French ARISTOcrat carrying a botTLE.
  9. Zeno – a LINE of ZEN Buddhists meditating.
  10. Epicurus – a flying HEN carrying an EPIdemic's CURe.

Try either visualizing these images as suggested, or if you do not like them, come up with images of your own. Once you have done this, try writing down the names of the philosophers on a piece of paper. You should be able to do this by thinking of the number, then the part of the image associated with the number, and then the whole image. Finally you can decode the image to give you the name of the philosopher.

If the mnemonic has worked, you should not only recall the names of all the philosophers in the correct order, but should also be able to spot where you have left them out of the sequence. Try it – it's easier than it sounds.

You can use a peg system like this as a basis for knowledge in an entire area. The example above could form the basis for knowledge of ancient philosophy. You could now associate images representing the projects, systems and theories of each philosopher with the images coding the philosophers' names.

Key Points

The Number/Rhyme technique is a very effective method of remembering lists. It works by 'pegging' the things to be remembered to images rhyming with the numbers 0 – 9. By driving the associations with numbers you have a good starting point in reconstructing the images, you are aware if information is missing, and you can pick up and continue the sequence from anywhere within the list.

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