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Writing a simple mnemonic for an equation (stopping distances)

Recently I was looking at the UK driving theory test.

There are many revision aids available for the exam, some of which come with up to a thousand test questions. Test questions are important, but they can put the focus on the wrong thing.

Let me explain. Each of those questions has to be based on a rule from the UK highway code. There are far less than a thousand rules, a lot of which are common sense.

Learning the answers to all one thousand questions would take far longer than learning the rules that those questions are based on. Knowing all the test question answers wouldn’t necessarily mean that you knew the highway code, so you still might find questions on the real exam that you weren’t prepared for. This is why the syllabus for an exam is such a critical tool in studying effectively.

Anyway, the UK driving theory test is a good chance to look at writing a real, if very simple mnemonic.

The driving theory test contains questions about stopping distances. If you were revising for the exam you could memorise all those figures, or you could memorise a single equation to calculate them.

The equation is as follows. Speed is in mph and distance is in feet.

stopping distance = (speed² % 20) + speed

A good way to remember this is to use a simple rhyming mnemonic. You can write them for equations by breaking the equation down into steps like this:

  1. speed
  2. squared
  3. divide by
  4. twenty
  5. plus
  6. speed

You can then write a rhyme using the first letter of each step. If there’s an unusual step I might include another key letter to help remind me what it stands for.

SPEEDing SQUAshed DrIVers, TWENTY Pancaked Survivors

It’s important to bear in mind that mnemonics are there as a prompt, they help you recall the equation, but you need to be familiar with the source material for them to work.

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