Saturday, December 24, 2011

Fun with numbers

I saw this comic at xkcd this other day (If you don't know xkcd, you should check it out.  It's always super geeky, sometimes culturally-relevant and once in a while incredibly informative), and it reminded me of the mnemonic I use for counting laps at the pool. 

Over the summer, I was reading Moonwalking with Einstein, a book that chronicles how the author became the US Memory Champion (yes, it's a thing).  That may seem a bit dull, but he starts roughly a year before the championship as just an every day guy, and then he infiltrates this subculture of competitive memorizers.  It's fascinating.

Anyway, he gives examples of how he memorizes names, numbers, to do lists, etc.  And it occurred to me, maybe I could use a technique like this when I'm counting laps.  You see, and this may come as a shock to some people, but I'm terrible with numbers.  Or at least, I'm terrible with numbers if I can't write them down.  Even simple math, if I don't have the calculation memorized, the numbers swim around, mix themselves up, and I end up being the MIT grad at the table desperately trying to divide the bill into 4 equal parts long after the cash has come and gone.

It's no different with remembering the lap that I'm on, particularly in the pool.  Even short sets like 3 x 300 start to become difficult.  Was that lap 4 or lap 5?  So here's what I do.  I associate images for each of the numbers 1-10.  Each of them has some relevance to the number, so it's easy to remember.  Then I place that image (usually person) at the end of the lane, mentally.  I picture them as I'm swimming.  If I'm not sure which lap I'm on, I just check the end of the lane.  Who's there is the lap.

For instance, the number one is Paul (cause he's my number one guy - AWWWWW)

Number two is my parents.  There is actually a specific photo that involved theatre t-shirts and suspenders, but I don't have a physical copy of it, so for your own enjoyment, here's a picture of my super cute mama (and a butterfly):

At three things start to get creative.  Three is the three kings:  the burger king, King Friday (the puppet) and a very sad looking Prince Charles (cause he's not actually a king).  In the book he explains that the more ridiculous the image, the stickier it is.  And for that reason the number six is the Easter Bunny, holding a basket of a dozen eggs and making a peace sign.

But isn't thinking of all these images just as hard to remember as remembering the number itself?  Well, no.  I don't really understand the science behind it, but somehow the images are easier.  Maybe it's using the other side of my brain or something.

Give it a try.


  © Blogger template 'Solitude' by 2008 | Photo by Jaredflo

Back to TOP