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Today’s BrainWOD: “The Phonetic Code”

By December 27, 2013Memory, wod


Warm-Up/Skill –
Varsity, Junior Varsity and Novice:
3x or 5:00
Handstand walk or bear crawl => 5 perfect squats => 5 push-ups => 10 one-legged side-to-side hops, each leg => 2 cartwheels => agility course => 100-meter run

3x or 5:00
Bear crawl => 5 super-slow squats => 3 push-ups => 10 one-legged side-to-side hops, each leg => 2 cartwheels => agility course => 50-meter run

3x or 5:00
Bear crawl => 3 super-slow squats => 2 push-ups => 5 one-legged side-to-side hops, each leg => 2-meter logroll => 25-meter run

Lesson: The Phonetic Code, and memorizing digits of Pi

Memorizing digits of Pi is much more than a cool trick.

The ability to hold information in working memory is critical to success in school, on tests, and when solving problems. Phone numbers are the most simple iteration of this skill, but solving complex mathematical problems, learning languages, and interacting with others requires fast recall time and the ability to juggle data without mental misplacement.

Luckily, memory is trainable.

Through using mnemonic devices, rhymes, ‘tagging’ and other methods, we can train our brains to recall more information faster. The best in the world can recall thousands of digits of Pi; students can measure themselves against their peers and the world champions after practice.

The first several dozen digits:


(the first million digits of Pi can be found here.)

There are several ways to train yourself to remember long strings of unrepeating numbers:
Create a chart. Write out pi to however many digits you hope to memorize. If you want to memorize a million digits, you may need a few more sheets of paper. After you’ve copied it out, group the digits in even numbers by penciling in parentheses around them.

  • Start with groups that have four digits in each one them : (3.141)(5926)(5358)(9793)(2384)(6264)(3383), etc.

Start small. The easiest way to memorize anything is by starting with a small group and working your way up. Like with weight lifting or sprints, you’ve got sets and repetitions, and you don’t want to overwork yourself by trying to jam 100 digits into your brain all at once.

  • Start by memorizing four groups of four digits each. You can work your way up to ten groups of four digits each, one at a time, slowly. Then double your recitations to five groups of eight digits each. It’ll be exactly the same number of digits, but you’ll be able to up your memorization by adding larger “sets.”

Try grouping numbers in telephone sequences. Most memorization techniques or “mnemonics” operate under the principle that it’s easier to memorize other things, like telephone numbers, than a complex series of digits. If you work up to grouping pi in groups of ten digits, you can organize the numbers into telephone number sequences that are more easy to memorize: Aaron (314)159-2653, Beth (589)793-2384, Carlos (626)433-8327, etc.

  • Giving them alphabetical names ensures that when you’ve memorized the first 260, you can start over and complete a whole “phone book.”

Rhyme to memorize. Many schoolyard mnemonics have developed over the years to help memorize the first several digits of pi: Cosine, secant, tangent, sine / Three point one four one five nine. This mnemonic relies on using the rhythm and pattern to recall the memorized numbers.

  • Lots of other memorization songs use the same technique: “If numbers had a heaven / their God would surely be / 3.14159 / 26353.”
  • The ABC tune, aka “Baa-Baa Black Sheep,” aka “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”: 3 1 4 1 5 9 2 / 6 3 5 3 5 8 9 / 7 9 3 2 3 8 4 / 6 2 6 4 3 3 8 / 3 2 7 9 5 0 2 / 8 8 4 1 9 7 1
  • Try writing your own song or rhyme to help yourself remember.

Try learning the major system (video, below.) Derivatives of the major system are used by some of the best mnemonists in the world. This extraordinarily complex technique involves substituting each digit or group of digits for a corresponding word that is phonetically similar, and eventually building a story or a series of linkages out of those words.


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