Monday, January 17, 2011

Mnemonics - Nifty Little Ways to Remember Things

Listen up.  It's pop quiz time.   And don't forget to put your name at the top of the paper.

Explain the significance of the following two phrases:

1.  Richard Of York Gives Battle In Vain 

2.  Battle Ends and Down Goes Charles Father


As a supply teacher, I'm always looking for easy ways for kids to memorize lists and learn things by rote (even though there seems to be active discouragement of this sort of behaviour in the public school system these days).

This is better known as the study of Mnemonics.    Mnemonics are devices that aid us in remembering lists and specific orders of things.  They come in many varieties and styles and aid in memorizing many types of information.

Where there is something to remember, mnemonics can be put to use. You will find them in every discipline from music, medicine, biology, and electronics to spelling, physics and geography.

For example, let us examine the following phrase:  

NESW -- Never Eat Soggy Waffles (also Never Eat Slimy Worms -- that one from my daughter)   This one aids students in remembering the clockwise orientation of the cardinal directions on a map's compass rose -- North, East, South, West.
Let's examine another one from the world of Geography.

Super Man Helps Every One.  Figured that one out yet?  It is the first letter of each of the Great Lakes of North America in order from west to east.(Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, Ontario)

Let's move on to the subject of Science.  There are many different mnemonics that aid in the memory of lists and concepts in all the areas of Science.  Here is a list of a few of them:

  a. Kids Prefer Cheese Over Fried Green Spinach

  b. My Very Easy Method: Just Set Up Nine Planets

  c. Happy Henry Likes Beer But Could Not Obtain Food

  d.  the first example from the pop quiz above

Let me explain.   The first one is the order of classification of all forms of life: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species.  The second is the order of planets starting at the sun and moving outward: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto.  I know there is ongoing debate about poor Pluto, but if it helps you to remember the other eight, just drop Pluto off the end.  The third one is the first nine elements on the periodic table.  And have you figured out why Richard of York Gives Battle in Vain?

Moving on to the Mathematical world.  We have the very basic BEDMAS or PEDMAS depending on which school of thought you came from.  This is the order of functions that you undertake to solve an algebraic equation (Brackets, Exponents, Division, Multiplication, Addition and finally Subtraction).  PEDMASers just prefer the more snooty parentheses as opposed to humble old brackets.

I also have a wonderful visual mnemonic for remembering the nine times tables that I will demonstrate further on.

The Music world has long made use of mnemonics to help students in remembering the orders of notes.  There are many fine examples, I will list a few.

FACE -- The order of the spaces in the treble clef.

Every Good Boy Deserves Fun (EGBDF) -- The order of the lines in the treble clef.

All Cows Eat Grass (ACEG) -- The order of the spaces in the bass clef.

Good Boys Deserve Fun Always (GBDFA) -- The order of the lines in the bass clef.
Father Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle (FCGDAEB) -- The order of sharps in a key signature.
Elvis Ate Drugs Good Bye Elvis  -- Order of strings on a guitar, from low to high (EADGBE)
And then there is my wife's favourite for memorizing all the various types of scales:  
I Don't Play Like My Aunt Lilly (Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolodian, Aeolian, Locrian)  

Language has a few examples that we need to look at.  Coordinating conjunctions are used when we join two clauses together. These are: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so
You can remember FANBOYS as a device or try a full sentence mnemonic:
Four Apes Nibbled Big Orange Yams.

Some of you (like yours truly) may be old enough to have studied Latin in school.  Bo Bis Bit, Bimus, Bitus, Bunt is not your typical mnemonic, but try saying them over and over, quicker and quicker and you'll never forget how to conjugate Latin verbs again.

I mentioned visual mnemonics before.  Here is a fine example for remembering which months of the year have 31 days.  All the knuckles have 31 days and the valleys are 30 or less.  The nice thing here is that you carry the mnemonics with you, whereever you go.  Of course if you are really old you probably learned the verse: Thirty days hath September, April, June and November.......

The following visual I picked up from a grade 6 student a few weeks ago.  I though it was quite clever and again you always carry your nine times table with you, where ever you go.

 This is a quick way of doing your nine times tables.  Let pick 9 X 3.

Drop your 3rd finger down (to represent the 3).  To the left you have 2 fingers.  Let that represent the tens digit.  To the right you have 7 digits up.  Let that represent the ones.
Pretty simple you have 2...7 or 27.

Let's try it for 9 X 8.  Drop your eighth finger.  You have seven digits up on the left and two up on the right -- 7...2  or 72.  Try it with any other single number and there it is, the nine times tables right before your eyes.

Here are another quick couple of visual mnemonics.  I think they are both pretty self explanatory.
Order of colours in the rainbow, or visual spectrum: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.  Oh and that reminds me.  The answer to the pop quiz questions.  The first one is the colours of the rainbow.  The second is the order of flats in a key signature.

Now if we could just come up with an easy way to get ALL the times tables drilled into everyone's brain. 

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.

1 comment:

Much appreciated comments from my friends: