You are sitting in your chair and you get a call. You have to take down the number of a reference person, say the electrician or the customer care… you hunt for a place to take down the number. Sometimes, you type it on your phone and then after the call ends, the screen refreshes.
You are now inside your bank. It’s crowded and you have to pull out some documents to enter your reference numbers, account numbers, passwords, and perhaps your ID number. That’s a lot. You think to yourself, ‘this is tedious, only if I knew all these details by heart’.
You are looking at your computer/phone screen. Your wallet is not in your pocket. And you need to make a card payment online. That is inputting a lot of numerical details. Sometimes, the card is declined, so you try another one. That is entering another set of numerical details. Wouldn’t you wish that you’d know all these details by heart?
I will be demonstrating the usage of a really powerful mental tool, a mnemonic device, called the Major system.
This is a tool that will exclusively help you remember long numbers efficiently. What’s better is that it doesn’t take much time to acquaint yourself with this tool and as you use your numbers again and again in real life, you’ll be very efficient in your work.
The Major System:
The Major system is a number-letter pairing. Each numerical digit: 0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, and 9 has a dedicated sound which is represented by a letter. For example. 2 will have the ‘n’ sound. Credit for making this useful largely goes to this guy.
This system uses consonant sounds to substitute numbers. You then create words using those consonant sounds. The goal of this system is to take any number and replace its digits with these fixed letters. You can insert vowels wherever necessary to make meaningful words.
Examples: 310 – M – T – S == MaTeS 547 – L – R – K == LuRK 8844 – F V R R == FeVeR Ray, FiVe RoaR 589203 – L – F – B – N – S – M == LiFe BaNS Me You could make words which make sense together or completely unique words for a long number and then creatively associate them together one after the other.
The process of using the major system (4 easy steps)
Step 1: Encode
You encode the number by substituting the numerical digits with the appropriate letters. Then you make words by inserting vowels. These words have inherent meaning, so the brain adds some ‘meaning value’ to these numbers. Because they are meaningful, your memory has an easier time storing and retrieving them.
9439523462 = B R M, B L N, M R Sh N = Broom Balloon Martian*
*Martian is pronounced as MarShun
Step 2: Imagery & Narration
On most occasions, you will be making multiple words to remember the numbers. You can further elaborate on the encoded words by means of mentally visualizing and narrating a story. This would further bolster your memory for those words. Mental imagery is powerful and the contents can be remembered easily.
Imagine a broom racing toward a huge balloon that is going up to meet a martian in space.
Step 3: Place/Associate
Sometimes, the numbers are relevant to physical places or people, such as phone numbers and area codes. You can associate the people and places with the encoded words in your imagery & narration.
Say that is bank account number. Associate the broom story with your bank. Something like this – you needed to get a loan to buy this extremely fast broom that can put the brooms in Harry Potter to shame!
Step 4: Retrieve
Now it’s time to remember the numbers. Simply recall the words in sequence and replace the
Your story was that of a broom racing to a balloon to reach a martian. You went to the bank to get the loan.
Broom, Balloon, Martian, Bank.
9439523462 associated with your bank.
1. Break large numbers into small chunks of 2-4 digits.
2. Use alternatives for a letter when they are easier to visualize
3. Try not to let the ‘S’ sound confuse you at the end of the word. It’s a good practice to imagine plural things so you are sure that an S is meant to make a word plural or not.
4. Sometimes, in longer numbers, you can push the S to the next chunk of letters.
5. W, H, & Y sounds are not commonly used. However, you can use them when words are difficult to create otherwise. The numerical value of the words does not change by using these. Sometimes, people add variations like using G for 6 or 7.
6. Consecutive letters are considered as one letter. For example, LL = L, SS = S *Highest priority guideline* The letters represent the sound for the numbers. Not the actual letter used for spelling it. For example, Accent = aKsent
Why does this technique work so well?
When we encode numbers as letters and then build words, we add a lot of meaning to these seemingly abstract things called numbers. Words are meaningful, therefore, they have a much more reliable memory. The brain thrives on assigning meaning to things. This technique takes advantage of that. The task of encoding & decoding systematically can potentially eliminate all errors in recalling! Give it a shot, do you remember the 4 examples we looked at? Take a minute, try it out! You’ll be surprised!
You can request a
Now that you have a good idea of how to memorize numbers, check out these tips I have for learning new words!
P.S. In the future, I’ll write about using multiple memory techniques as a mega-system to remember fine details! Click here.
P.P.S. The fact that so much mental work goes into memorizing those numbers leads to elaborative encoding, which further helps form stronger memories.
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Hey! Thank you for reading; hope you enjoyed the article. I run Cognition Today to paint a holistic picture of psychology. My content here is referenced and featured in NY Times, Forbes, CNET, Entrepreneur, Lifehacker, 10-15 books, academic courses, and research papers.
I’m a full-time psychology blogger, part-time Edtech and cyberpsychology consultant, guitar trainer, and also overtime impostor. I’ve studied at NIMHANS Bangalore (positive psychology), Savitribai Phule Pune University (clinical psychology), and IIM Ahmedabad (marketing psychology).
I’m based in Pune, India. Love sci-fi, horror media; Love rock, metal, synthwave, and pop music; can’t whistle; can play 2 guitars at a time.