How to remember number strings
Remembering number strings is something we all have to do in everyday life. Phone numbers, addresses, serial numbers, and many other strings of numbers can be difficult to remember, but vital to us! How can you remember when you don’t have a way to write it down, or to look it up if you have written it down?
There are many strategies to remembering number strings. First of all, there’s a process called “chunking.” Remembering a series of individual numbers can be difficult. If someone told you to memorize the sequence “398572494,” you wouldn’t try to memorize each number, like “Three-nine-eight-five, etc.” The short-term memory can only hold about seven pieces of information at a time, so you’d be likely to forget two or more of the numbers! However, in using chunking, you group some of the numbers together, so it seems like less information. You might say to yourself, “Three hundred-ninety-eight, five hundred-seventy-two, four hundred-ninety-four.” Now there are only three numbers, but you have, in essence, memorized nine numbers!
Another strategy is to relate the numbers to something you already know. Perhaps someone tells you to memorize the previous string of numbers, and “572” happens to be your address or a friend’s address. Use this association technique to remember the number (if you relate new information to something that’s significant to you, you’re more likely to remember it). Maybe, if you’re learning a new phone number, all of the area codes and first three digits are the same, so you don’t have to really learn those. For example, a phone number of (111) 555-8987 would be easy, because you’d assume that (111) would be area code, and the phone number must begin with 555, since all that are in your area do. Then, you have to only memorize the last four digits!
Once you’ve committed a series of numbers to your short term memory, you can remember them longer (or put them in your long-term memory) by reciting them to yourself, either silently or out loud. Some people are visual, and they will write the number down, picture it in their head, and or think about what it looks like to punch it in a number pad. Others are auditory, and need to hear the numbers recited out loud. Still others learn by doing, and may remember better if they trace the numbers with their fingers, or pretend to dial a phone.
Visual people may also benefit from making up an image to go along with the numbers. Maybe when you think of “572,” you picture your house. In another case, maybe the last digits of your new phone number spell out a friend’s birthday (ex. 0287 would be February, 1987). Picture your friend when you try to recall these numbers. Maybe two number sequences you know are the same, except for the last two digits. As long as you remember which one is which, it’ll help to remember them together! Relating material to familiar things will go a long way towards remembering it for a long time.
Write things down as soon as you can, so that if you need to go back and check it, you can. Also, the more practice you get in remembering number sequences (using all the above techniques), the better you’ll be at remembering them. After awhile, you may discover your own technique, and you won’t really need to use these techniques anymore. At least – you probably won’t think about it!