The Number Rhyme system is one of the easiest ways to remember short sequences of numbers. It requires almost no preparation, unlike most of the other techniques for remembering numbers. I find it useful for things like ATM PINs.

For example, suppose you decide to change your primary checking account PIN. PINs are almost always four digits. Most interesting in this case is the fact that a few weeks’ of use will wipe out any need for artificial memory tricks. What’s really needed is a simple technique to get through the couple of weeks between when you get the new PIN and when frequent use makes the memory naturally permanent. The Number Rhyme system may be just the trick.

A few key concepts are worth a brief review. First, numbers are too abstract to be easily memorized. Therefore all memory techniques for numbers rely on converting abstract numbers into something concrete.

Second, remembering something is usually not the problem; accessing the memory is the problem. If you imagine memory being stored as a network of associations, you want to create as many connections – as many associations – to the memory as possible.

Third, silly is good. Your memory works best for things that are silly, outlandish, and novel.

Finally, committing something to memory is an active act of imagination and creativity. Memory is not passive, and forming memories does not “just happen”. If you follow these rules, little or no repetition is required.

The Number Rhyme system works by creating a simple rule for converting a single digit into a real thing that is more easily remembered. Unlike the Major System or the Person Association technique, the Number Rhyme system uses rhymes to do the conversion from a digit to a number.

I find it useful to think about number rhymes ahead of time. It can be surprisingly hard to come up with a rhyme for the digit seven when you need it!

Consider the following possible list of rhymes:

Digit Rhyming Word
Zero Hero
One Gun
Two Shoe
Three Tree
Four Door
Five Hive
Six Pics (pictures), sticks
Seven Heaven
Eight Crate
Nine Vine, Wine

 

The number 3681 becomes Tree-Sticks-Crate-Gun. Surprisingly, many people can stop there. Your brain will remember Tree-Sticks-Crate-Gun better than it will remember 3681.

A next step might be to repeat once or twice in your head “Three six eight one, Tree Sticks Crate Gun!”

To go a step further, create a scene or story composed of a tree, sticks, crate, and gun.

“There is a tree standing in the middle of the park. A big, violent wind storm comes, and shakes the tree back and forth. A bunch of dead branches fall to the ground. A man wearing an orange hat comes along, looks at the sticks on the ground for a minute, and then comes back later with a crate. He puts the sticks in the crate, and labels it ‘For Sale: Toy Guns’.”

When you make scenes or stories like this, it’s important to imagine as much detail as possible. Vividness matters. Hear the wind blowing the tree. See the dead branches falling the ground. Imagine the scene in a park you are familiar with. See what the man is wearing, not just the orange hat, but as much other detail as possible. If you can incorporate smells and sounds, you should.

Each detail creates another association, which helps your brain find the memory later.

The Number Rhymes system is easy to use and requires almost no preparation work ahead of time. However, it doesn’t provide much variety in the images unless you are exceptionally good at rhyming. It also only encodes one digit per object, which makes it less useful for longer sequences of digits.

If you practice the Number Rhyme technique, it’s easy to extend it to word for letters of the alphabet. This makes it useful for license plate numbers and similar short sequences of digits and numbers.

An alternative to the Number Rhyme technique is the Number Association technique. This and other techniques for remembering numbers can be found here.