Chunking is especially helpful for remembering long sequences of numbers, such as phone and account numbers 10 to 12 digits long or more. As I explain below, the Phonetic-Number technique is a powerful chunking method for permanently memorizing long numbers, while the simpler Direct Chunking method (using spaces or dashes) is useful for holding numbers in short-term memory temporarily - or more permanently with added repetition. Short-term memory is the temporary memory storage you use when mentally working with information.
By chunking - which means breaking long items into smaller, manageable chunks or pieces - you can expand your mind's natural 7-item limit.
If you enfold multiple, individual items into a single, larger item (chunk), you'll free extra slots in your short-term memory.
You use language chunking all the time - you're doing it right now as you read these words - but you don't notice it. With concentration and repetition, you might be able to commit this random sequence to memory, temporarily.
Assuming you succeeded in temporarily memorizing the 9-letter sequence above, are you able to hold that sequence in mind as you continue read this?
There are so many numbers, we're often forced to write them down or record them electronically in our smartphones or computers.
Clearly it would save time to memorize numbers we use most often, or at least the numbers we are expected to recall on demand such as home phone and cell phone numbers.
In memory improvement circles, the Phonetic-Number technique is the go-to method for permanently memorizing long number sequences. The number sequence has been converted to letters which chunk into recognizable words that form a sentence. This method leverages the letter-word chunking feature of memory we observed in the ALLIGATOR example above.
At first glance, the Phonetic-Number technique looks like it might be difficult to learn and use.


When we read, we don't examine the individual letters on the page - we simply see the words as "chunks". However, since we don't talk in numbers, memory aids such as the Phonetic-Number technique can be valuable for those with the need and willingness to learn them. And thankfully, there is a quick and easy method of chunking for long numbers that does NOT require memorizing a letter-conversion chart. Suppose you don't want to invest the time to chunk a long number into memorable words or sentences.
The next time you're presented with a long number that might be useful to remember, try one of the two number chunking methods: the Phonetic-Number technique, or Direct Chunking using spaces or dashes.
For situations where you're in a hurry or only need short-term mental storage, try direct chunking using spaces or dashes, with brief repetition. And when speaking a long number to someone else, be sure to chunk it for them and pause a few seconds between chunks. I encourage you to make the effort to use memory-boosting strategies like the Phonetic-Number technique and Direct Chunking.
For example, that phone number you want to keep in mind for a few moments, long enough to dial it. In language, letter sequences are continuously chunked by your brain into words automatically. And what about situations where we need to hold a very long number in short-term memory for several moments?
With this technique, you use a letter-number chart to convert the number sequence into a word sentence.
For a detailed explanation on how to use this method, please visit my Phonetic-Number Technique page. But you can see from our example with ALLIGATOR how easy remembering random sequences can be if you assign them meaning.


In fact, you can greatly increase your reading speed by learning to chunk phrases as you read, rather than reading one word at a time. Or you only need to remember the number for a few moments, then forget it - as when writing down a phone number someone is telling you verbally. That's why you usually see spaces or dashes in phone numbers, social security numbers, and credit card numbers.
So if someone quickly told you this number out loud, you might struggle to hold it in your short-term memory as you searched for pen and paper. This should help you remember the number long enough to write it down, dial it, or tell it to someone else.
Because a letter-number conversion chart must be memorized in advance, the Phonetic-Number technique requires practice. These methods can reduce forgetfulness and stress in situations where you are expected to recall specific number sequences.
However, by employing a memory technique called chunking, you can increase this limit significantly. And in many cases we definitely could use memory help when writing down a number someone is reading over the phone. Remembering the silly phrase "Boy riding turtle wearing hat" is easy, especially if you visualize it (see image at right).
What we've done here is take a 10-item sequence and chunk it into 3 items of 4 or fewer each. Given the limits of short-term memory, holding these 3 chunks in mind is far easier than keeping the string of 10 in mind.



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