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Why students shouldn’t rely on mnemonic systems for numbers

If you need to memorise a few, short, numbers:

It can be tempting to invest time mastering an advanced mnemonic system, but this can eat away at the time you have to study.

Books about mnemonics are often very quick to criticise learning by rote, but if you have only a handful of numbers to commit to memory, flashcards can be much quicker and less stressful.

There are a few mnemonic devices to help with remembering the occasional short number. You can find them here.

If you need to memorise a lot of numbers, or long numbers:

As a student, your needs are very different to that of a memory athlete.

In a memory competition, a participant has to encode numbers to images, memorise them, and decode images back to numbers almost instantly, with nothing written down to help. To allow them to quickly convert numbers to images they need to have images for each number (usually 1-1000) already worked out and memorised.

A student only needs to be able to decode images to numbers in ‘real time’. They can perform the encoding (the hard part) beforehand.

This is a crucial distinction. It’s easy to read descriptions of these techniques written by competitors and be put off because of the amount of work that they need to put in. A student using the Major system can memorise any number just by learning the ten number to letter conversion rules.

I suggest using Flashcard Plus to learn the rules, with an additional set of ten flashcards to test your ability to decode words back to numbers. You can then use an existing set of Major system pegs (mental images that represent numbers) to generate your mnemonics whilst you study.

Here is a website that you might want to use as your reference: www.phoneticmnemonic.com

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