of my earliest and fondest memories from my childhood is my mother telling me original
stories during my pre-school days in an attempt to get me to go to sleep. She was hoping
that I would fall asleep so that she could nap before my brothers got home from school.
My mothers stories of ponies and good little girls and boys entertained me long
enough to lie still causing my mother to drop off to sleep. The visual pictures created in
my memory are still visually acute to this day, many years later. Even though I then
slipped off the bed to play and did not meet my mothers objective with her
storytelling, the experience and the memory of those stories has greatly affected my
course in life and directed me toward the research of memory enhancement techniques for my
I have often asked the teachers to whom I am presenting teacher training
to give me their opinion as to what the major problem is for the students as a whole. Poor
listening skills and the inability to focus were the two most consistent answers. When
specifically addressed to math teachers, poor memorization of math facts was added to the
The fact that memories of my mothers stories are still visually
imprinted on my brain after so many years, led me to look for explanations.
I turned to the memory gurus: Tony Buzan, Harry Lorayne, Sheila Ostrander,
Douglas Herrmann and Lynn Schroeder. After reading dozens of books on memory I discovered
that a marriage between two ancient concepts address all the problems presented to me.
Storytelling is the art and science of language. Mnemonics is the art and
science of memory. Common characteristics make the answer to the memory problems seem to
be so simple.
Stories are organized information. "Research shows that organized
information can be learned four times faster than information that is presented
Storytelling engages visual interpretations of the warp and woof of the
language. How well colored and tightly or loosely woven the weave appears is of course
determined by the storyteller, the weaver.
Discovering that the four basic mnemonic hooks included the keyword, chain
(a.k.a. stories), loci and acronyms/acrostics, I began weaving math stories to help my
students learn math facts while eliminating boring rote drill.
Beginning with what is considered the most difficult math facts, the nines
in multiplication, I used a common location (loci) for the setting of the 9s, with
different settings for the 8s. 7s and so forth. The interaction of the
numbers, which had been converted to interesting characters, made up the chain, with the
keyword representing the product of the multiplication problem.
The story of 9 x 9 = 81: Fine Nine was going to the beach
for his vacation. His twin brother decided to give him a party to help send him on his
way. Balloons and decorations were hung. Friends were invited. Many different kinds of
food were served at the party. Since Fine Nine and his twin brother were gentlemen, they
"Ate One" (81) of every kind of food, even the food that they did not
like. (Copyrighted Mac)
The mnemonic art can address any content area of study. The word
conflagration (one of the 250 most common SAT words), which means an immense fire, is
easily woven into a mnemonics story.
Two convicts who escaped from prison, decided to split up to avoid capture
by the law officers in pursuit of them.
"Where should we meet?" asked the second convict to the first.
"We will meet up on top of one of those mountains in the distance
behind the prison," pointed the first convict.
"How will I be able to spot you?" questioned the first.
"I will make a flag out of my red bandana. Look for me waving it and
we will then escape together."