The Number/Shape Mnemonic

The Number/Shape system is very similar to the Number/Rhyme system. It is a very simple and effective way of remembering a list in a specific order. It is another example of a peg system based on pegword images.

How to use the tool:

The technique works by helping you to build up pictures in your mind, in which the numbers are represented by images shaped like the number. You can then associate these with the things you want to remember using striking images.

One image scheme is shown below:

  1. Candle, spear, stick
  2. Swan (beak, curved neck, body)
  3. Bifocal glasses, or part of a “love heart”
  4. Sail of a yacht
  5. A meat hook, a sea-horse facing right
  6. A golf club
  7. A cliff edge
  8. An egg timer
  9. A balloon with a string attached, flying freely
  10. A hole

If you find that these images do not attract you or stick in your mind, then change them for something more meaningful to you.

As with the Number/Rhyme scheme, link these images to ones representing the things to be remembered.

In some cases these images may be more vivid than those in the number/rhyme scheme, and in other cases you may find the number/rhyme scheme more memorable. There is no reason why you cannot mix the most vivid images of each scheme together into your own compound scheme.


We can use a list of modern thinkers to illustrate the number/shape system:

  1. Spinoza – a large CANDLE wrapped around with someone’s SPINe
  2. Locke – a SWAN trying to pick a LOCK with its wing
  3. Hume – A HUMan child with BIFOCAL glasses
  4. Berkeley – A SAIL on top of a large hooked and spiked BURR in the LEE of a cliff
  5. Kant – a CAN of spam hanging from a meat HOOK
  6. Rousseau – a kangaROO SEWing with a GOLF CLUB
  7. Hegel – a crooked trader about to be pushed over a CLIFF, HaGgLing to try to avoid being hurt
  8. Kierkegaard – a large EGG TIMER containing captain KIRK and a GuARD from the starship enterprise, as time runs out
  9. Darwin – a BALLOON floating upwards, being blown fAR by the WINd
  10. Wittgenstein – a HOLE with a WITTy GENeral in it holding a STEIN of beer.

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