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  • Writer's pictureIan Gibbs

Do You Know These 5 'Handy' Mnemonics?

Q: What do the days in a month, a screw’s thread, the nine-times table, an electric motor and learning techniques all have in common?

A: They can all be remembered by 'Handy' mnemonics.

There are lots of different ways to remember stuff better: The Phonetic Method, The Loci Method, The Visualisation Method, but one of my favourites is by using an object - in this case, your hands.

Here are my favourite 5 examples:

Days in a month

How many days are in August?

To answer this simply use your knuckles and the spaces between them.

Clench your fists and start with the knuckle of your little finger on your left hand. Using each knuckle and the space in between each knuckle, count off the months moving left (See diagram) The months that coincide with a knuckle have 31 days, the ones that coincide with the spaces have 30 (or 28 if it’s February).

I use this technique whenever I want to know quickly if a month has 31 days. Not so much a rule of thumb as a rule of knuckle.

To Screw or Unscrew

Which way should you turn a screw to tighten it? Clockwise or anti-clockwise? If you're anything like me, you have your moments of doubt.

So hold your right hand as if you’re thumbing a lift, then point your thumb in the direction you want the screw to go. The way your curled fingers are now pointing tells you which way to turn the screw.

Nine times table

This is a nice digital mnemonic my kids still remember for multiplying X by 9 (where X is a single digit number)

Hold your hands palms up. Number your digits 1 to 10 starting with your left thumb.

Now, let’s say you want to multiply 7 by 9. So take digit number 7 (the ring finger of your right hand) and bend it over towards you. If you now count the digits on either side of the bent digit you have 6 on the left and 3 on the right. 7 x 9=63.

This works with any single digit value of X.

Electric Motor

For anyone you know studying physics, this one might come in handy.

If you have an electric current moving along a wire in an electric field, the wire experiences a push. This is how an electric motor works, whether it's the pump in your fridge or a drone's propeller blades. But which way does it move?

To remember, use your left hand, point your thumb, first finger and second finger in three perpendicular directions (see diagram).

Your First finger represents Field (note the Fs).

Your seCond finger represents Current (note the Cs)

Your thuMb represents thrust of Motion (I hope you’ve already noticed the Ms).

If you're still confused, look up Fleming's left-hand rule for electric motors.

Learning Techniques

How do you know if your chosen method of learning is a good one?

I use this mnemonic to help my clients assess themselves.

Hold your left hand palm facing you.

Starting with your little finger, label the digits A to E. These 5 ‘rungs’ I call the learning ladder and it represents the 5 levels of learning.

A = Acquisition (Receiving information)

B = Bringing Back Information (Recalling)

C = Comprehension (Understanding)

D = Do (Physical Application)

E = Evaluation (and Feedback)

The more you're doing higher activities, the quicker and stronger your learning will be.

These 5 Handy Mnemonics work because they combine a visual prompt to what we want to remember.

Do you know of any others? Let me know. I'm always eager to learn!

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