How to Memorize Numbered Lists with The Major System

Okay, so far we have learned how to memorize lists of things using the memory palace technique, but we have not learned how to memorize numbered lists. For example, earlier I showed you how I learned all the US presidents in order. Now, let’s say I wanted to figure out which president was the 33rd. I would have to go through the list and keep track of which president was which until I got to number thirty three. The purpose of the major system is to make this process more streamlined.

Something important to specify is that the major system is an extension of the memory palace system for the most part. You could technically use it separately. However, you would not get the full benefit out of the system. So, if you are not familiar with the memory palace system, go ahead and read my article on it here.

Using the Major System

When using the major system, we create images for each number. For example, we could assign the image “ballerina” to number 1. Then we could assign the image “truck” for number two. Then, say we want to memorize the list of presidents. We would then create our image for George Washington. For Washington, I use an apple tree because that reminds me of him. Then, we assign the image of the ballerina to the apple tree by making her interact with the tree in some way. As an example, we could have her climbing up the tree.

Now, there is some more order to the major system than assigning random images to numbers. There is actually a system in place for which word means which number. This system is based on consonant sounds. The following sounds relate to the following numbers:

  • 0 is s or soft c
  • 1 is d or t
  • 2 is n
  • 3 is m
  • 4 is r
  • 5 is l
  • 6 is sh or ch
  • 7 is k or hard c or g
  • 8 is f or ph
  • 9 is p or b

So, for these number assignments, you are going to have to practice getting used to them. There is no way around it. You will have to memorize them. If you have Anki, you can throw it in your deck. However, there are some tricks for remembering which number goes to which letter.

  • t looks like 1
  • 2 is just sideways N
  • 3 is sideways m
  • The fourth letter in 4 is r
  • Two 7s put together make a K
  • 9 is backwards P

Now in this system, vowel sounds mean nothing. For example, the word bear would be 94 because we only pay attention to the consonants. That is, ea in the word “bear” means nothing. Here are some quick examples:

  1. Rain would be 42
  2. Poor would be 94
  3. Stupid would be 0191
  4. Mug would be 37
  5. Mask would be 307

As you are getting used to this system, you can go around and look at different objects around your room, and then figure out what number you would assign to them. For example, looking around my room I see a chair (64), a fan (82), a board (941), and much more. Something important to clarify is that we do pay attention to zeros in the front of numbers. For example, if I have the word “sun,” that means 02 not 2. This is important because when using the major system, you may want to store numbers like 02 for certain purposes.

When using the major system, you are going to want to create specific images for each number that you always use. My first ten are

  • Zoo for 0
  • Doe for 1
  • Knee for 2
  • Moo for 3
  • Ore for 4
  • Oil for 5
  • Shoe for 6
  • Oak for 7
  • Fee for 8
  • Poo for 9
  • Tissue for 10

With these, you can store them in a memory palace, and review them when you need to. Eventually, they will become second nature.

A Quick Example

When I learned the major system, the first thing I wanted to memorize was the order of the planets. I wanted someone to be able to say “which was the seventh planet?” and then I immediately figure it out.

The first thing I did was find somewhere to store my images. I chose a room in my grandparents house. Next, I chose the images for each planet:

  • Mercury was a pool of mercury
  • Venus was the image of Venus from a famous painting of her
  • Earth was just an image of earth
  • Mars was just an image of Mars (I could get away with this because it was so recognizable)
  • Jupiter is an image of a person jumping on a computer
  • Saturn is an image of someone sitting on an urn
  • Uranus is a picture of a butt (I know, immature, but it works)
  • Neptune is a picture of King Neptune from Spongebob

Okay, now we need to associate our major system number images with the memory palace images. Okay, here’s what I did:

  • For mercury, I imagine a doe in a pool of mercury
  • For Venus, I imagine venus’s knees shaking a ton
  • For Earth, I imagine a giant moo coming from all the cows on earth
  • For Mars, I imagine Elon Musk saying we need to mine the ore from Mars
  • For Jupiter I imagine someone jumping on a computer and oil coming out
  • For Saturn, I imagine a shoe sitting on an urn
  • For Uranus, I imagine a butt in a tall oak tree
  • And finally, for Neptune, I imagine King Neptune giving me a feel

So now, not only am I able to list the planets in order, I am also able to answer two more complex questions. If you ask me “what is the fourth planet from the sun?” I think of my image for four: ore. Then I remember that Mars is the image associated with ore. This all happens in a second, and it is very efficient. Now, you could also ask “ What place is the planet Uranus from the sun?” Then I would think of my image for Uranus, imagine it in an oak tree, and then I know it is the seventh planet from the sun.

Now, this was a really basic example of what can be done, but hopefully it was an effective one. Coming up, I will show you a more complex example, where I memorize a longer list (like 25 things) and assign a number to each of them.

Thank you for reading, and if you have any questions, just comment below!


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