Memory Systems: The Major Number System

Bad at remembering numbers? Yep. That’s because you’re human. Don’t take it personally. Sure, many of us who were alive before smart phones had dozens of phone numbers memorized. But that was through sheer repetition – we were no better back then at remembering short-term things like odometer readings, model numbers, or our credit card numbers.

Fortunately, your memory is almost certainly great – and it has nothing to do with your IQ. It’s a matter of understanding a tiny bit about how the human brain works and using it to our advantage.

Today we’re going to learn the Major System. It does require a tiny bit of one-time memorization. After that, you’ll be able to memorize long numbers easily. This is not too good to be true.

Have a look at the following table. Note that for each number, if there’s more than one letter, it’s because your mouth takes the same shape when you make either sound. For example, the hard “T” (tuh) and hard “D” (duh) sounds. Try it and you’ll see.

Digit Sound
0 C or S (ssss)
1 T or D (tuh/duh)
2 N
3 M
4 R
5 L
6 SH or CH
7 K or G (kuh/guh)
8 F or V (fuh/vuh)
9 P or B (puh/buh)

All you have to do is make words or phrases using this sound. Note: Any sound not listed here can be freely used. For example, for 32 you can use “woman” just as easily as “man.”

Now for a few examples.

  • 42: run
  • 69: chub, shop, ship, shape, or chap
  • 4386: rum fetch, rim fish
  • 40174: rusty car
  • 005809790611: saucy leaves pickups chatted, sissy loves pogo bass shooted

IMPORTANT Once you have words or phrases, turn them into a story. For example, for “saucy leaves pickups chatted,” perhaps imagine leaves in a pot of spaghetti sauce getting into pickup trucks and talking to one another on cell phones. It has to be visual for it to stick. The more ridiculous the better. If you are trying to remember the number 357 and decide to use the word “milk,” don’t picture a glass of milk. Picture yourself milking a dumpster, or a giraffe drinking from a swimming pool full of milk. I bet you’re already picturing those things. It’s that easy!

All it takes is a bit of practice to come up with words or silly sentences, and you’ll be able to recall the number later. Try to remember to use your images to recall the digits several times throughout the day to really get them to stick. And once or twice the next day. After that, you should be able to recall them far in the future – especially if you recall them every few days to push them further into your long-term memory.