How to Memorize Math Formulas

Two Time USA Memory Champion and memory training expert and memory speaker Ron White shares his memory system for recalling math formulas:

Memorizing Math Formulas

By Ron White Memory Expert and USA Memory Champion

Instead of memorizing math formulas we are going to memorize some stories. It will be much more fun. Trust me :)

You have a huge globe in front of you.  It is a 6-foot tall globe.  As you stand in front of the globe, notice that there are 7 continents, and some overlap into the northern and southern hemisphere, but the majority of them are in the north.  There are 4 in the northern hemisphere and 3 in the southern hemisphere. What is in front of you?  A globe.  How many continents in the north?  Four.  In the south?  Three.  Now, you notice a piece of a pie on top of the globe and you reach up to grab a piece of the pie, but just as soon as you do, you see a rat has been eating the pie, and you don’t want to eat after a rat.  He’s at the North Pole, so he’s frozen or an ice cube.  Right?  Now, what was our picture?  We had a globe, and how many continents in the north?  Four.  And what about the south?  Three.  What was on top of the globe?  Pie.  What was then next to the pie?  A rat, and he was an ice cube.  Now, move the picture off the screen of your mind.  I’m going to give you a new picture and using a memory training system you are going to memorize it.

Here is the second story to memorize math formulas : I want to introduce you to a friend of mine.  He is a giant man-eating bumble bee from Texas.  He is from Texas, so he is wearing a giant cowboy hat.  Picture some parallel bars in your mind.  This bee walks out with the hat and hops on the parallel bars and starts doing gymnastics.  Now, if you saw that, you would never forget it.  No. So, see it.  Ok.  Now, you have two stories in your mind that are actually pictures.  What we did was take some abstract thoughts, and actually they were calculus formulas and we turned them into pictures and we filed them to our files.  Let me show you what I mean.

A stockbroker once attended my course in Austin, Texas.  He was studying for his Series 7 test.  He brought a book full of formulas.  He had a lot of anxiety for the test.  He was afraid he was not going to be able to recall the formulas.  We approached them the exact way we approached these calculus formulas.  What was the first story?  It was about a globe, right?  A globe is actually a sphere.  So, the formula was to learn to volume formula for a sphere.  That formula is sphere=4/3 Õr2.  Each one of these items is an abstract thought, so we had to turn it into a picture.  A globe for sphere, 4 continents in the north and 3 in the south, for 4/3.  And a pie for the math symbol representing 3.14, and a rat to represent r, and he is an ice cube to represent cubed.  That’s pretty easy.  Each item simply has to be turned into a picture to recall it, and then we created a story just like the Mount Rainier story.

The stockbroker thought he was going to have to turn pictures for each formula and that seemed like a daunting task for him.  He didn’t think there was any way.  However, after looking at the formulas, he realized that the same symbols appeared in each formula over and over again.  So, yes, he did have to turn each symbol into a picture, but he had to do it once.  The next time he saw that symbol in an equation, he already had a picture for it.  In calculus, r is a symbol that appears in a lot of formulas and stands for radius.  So, if you are dealing with formulas, you only have to turn the variables into a picture once, the first time.  Let’s review the second formula real quick.  It was the area formula for a parallelogram.  The formula is written this way, parallelogram = bh, which means base times height.  So, we had parallel bars for parallelogram, and a bee for b, and a cowboy hat for h.  Pretty simple.  Parallelogram = bh.

If you are a student, the applications are obvious.  If you are a business professional, a concept is actually more important than the formulas.  So, make sure you understand the concept.  You just learned two calculus formulas whether you wanted to or not.  And, remember it didn’t seem like a challenge because we approached it from the correct angle the first time.  If you are a student struggling to learn 4/3Õr2, and then you were given this memory system, I think you would appreciate it much more.  So, be thankful that you didn’t have to go through that to get the information.

So there you have it, this is how you use memory training to learn how to memorize math formulas! Yes, it is possible to improve your memory and this is our method for math.

Volume Formula

Sphere = 4/3 π R3


Parallelogram = BH

Circular Ring = 2 π PW

When recalling formulas, in order for the memory training to be most effective, you must substitute a picture for the symbol or variable.

Math Symbol Picture

Sphere                                                =                        Globe

π (pi)                                                   =                        Piece of Pie

R (radius)                                          =                        Rat

Parallelogram                                   =                        Parallel Bars

B (base)                                              =                        Bumble bee

H (height)                                          =                        Hat

Circular Ring                                    =                        Ring

P (perimeter)                                    =                        Pirate

W (width)                                          =                        Window

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