Chunking

Here are some chunking techniques for memorizing information:

  • Use acronyms: COVER (Carl, Olivia, Veronica, Ed, Rick) names of your bosses
  • Use codes: 1800-74992 (1800-PIZZA)
  • Use songs: one eight hundred, two six seven, two thousand and one…alarm force! (jingle in the ad for Alarmforce’s 1800-267-2001 number

I found an amazing example of chunking which I’ll summarize below. A man could initially memorize on the spot, 7 digits in a row. For an hour a day, 3 times a week, for two years, he would be given a sequence of numbers to memorize. If we got them correct, his next sequence would be 1 digit longer. If we got them wrong, his next sequence would be 1 digit less. After the experiment, he could memorize 80 digits in a row!

But how did he do it? The average human has a 4-item limit. He would memorize the sequences of numbers by grouping them into well known numbers. For example, 3141 are the first four digits of pie. If he was given 20 digits, he could compact it into 4 items. He eventually learnt how to compact items into multiple levels. So a sequence of 80 digits would be compacted into 4 groups of 20, and each 20 digit sequence would be compacted into another 4 groups. Amazing!

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About simoncrothers

I am an Australian who moved to British Columbia, Canada with my family in 1998. After completing my undergraduate degree in mathematics and computing science at Simon Fraser University, I moved back to Australia for several years. During this time I completed a Masters in Computational Mathematics and began my teaching career in mathematics at the University of New South Wales. In 2010, I moved back to Canada and taught computer science at Douglas College for three years. I am currently regular faculty in the Computer Business Systems department at KPU. I have also taught some courses in the Business and Quantitative Methods department at KPU. In my spare time I like to spend time with my wife Jami, who I met in Australia, our three year old daughter Lillian, and our newly born son Aiden. I also like to indulge in the occasional video game and I am involved in various self-employed web development projects.
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