Numb3r – Part 1

Hi! This is a two part post about a script I created to help me memorize large sequences of numbers. This first part is simply an introduction on how the technique works and what is required to use it. The second part of the post will be about the actual script and how a seemingly straightforward project can grow arms and legs and become quite challenging.

Let’s start off with the technique itself, 10 years ago I read this book called ‘Tricks of the Mind’ by Derren Brown and I came into contact with old memory tricks that allow you to memorize huge troves of information quite easily. If you want to learn about them I recommend you buy the book. Meanwhile, I’ll cover one technique, that I have used many times in the past, which sole purpose is to help you remember large sequences of numbers.

The very first thing you will need to do is to have a way of converting numbers into letters. In order to do this you will need to attribute a letter (or sequence of letters) to each digit. 1 for example looks similar to l so you could attribute l to 1. You should definitely create your own based on what feels right to you. Since I am portuguese my mappings won’t make sense to you so let’s assume that you have the following conversion table:

‘s’ -> ‘0’‘r’ -> ‘4’‘t’ -> ‘7’
‘z’ -> ‘0’‘f’ -> ‘5’‘ch’ -> ‘8’
‘l’ -> ‘1’‘v’ -> ‘5’‘sh’ -> ‘8’
‘n’ -> ‘2’‘b’ -> ‘6’‘j’ -> ‘8’
‘m’ -> ‘3’‘p’ -> ‘6’‘g’ -> ‘9’

Using the table above if, for example, you have the number:


You could convert it to the following letters:


These letters in turn could form the word RiVeR. For a simple 3 digit number this seems quite straightfoward but once you start having bigger numbers like:


the process becomes a bit harder. If you repeat the same process, you would get the letters RVRRMMGZ(S)N which could form the words:

RiVeR aRMy MaGaZiNe

If you were to memorize these words/objects using a memory technique like the mind palace you could then convert them back into the original number easily. Since words, and specially concrete nouns, are much more memorable than plain digits, storing them is much less of a challenge.

Let’s review then. In a nutshell the method consists of the following steps:

  1. Pick a sequence of digits
  2. Convert these digits into letters
  3. Convert these sequence of letters into words
  4. Memorize the words
  5. When needed, convert the words back into letters and then into digits

You could argue that this process is easy to follow on your own without the help of a computer script but for large numbers this can become quite challenging. Plus, this should be easy to program right? That is what I thought before I started. Check part 2 to find out why that was not really the case.

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