## “Mnemonic instruction has been recommended as a practice with solid research evidence of effectiveness for individuals with learning disabilities by the Council for Exceptional Children-the Division for Learning Disabilities (DLD) and the Division for Research (DR).” (The Access Center, 2007)

### A Flashback into Greek Mythology

Where does the word *mnemonic* derive from? Mnemosyne, the Greek goddess of memory and the mother of the nine Muses of Greek Mythology, was thought to be one of the most powerful goddesses of her time. Before the introduction of writing, Mnemosyne preserved the stories of history and myth by memorization, thus designating her extreme significance to Greek Mythology. Although memory was of the upmost importance in her time, ironically, she is often forgotten. (The Goddess Path, 2001-2011)

### What are Mnemonic Strategies?

Mnemonics are memory devices that assist learners in the areas of recalling and remembering information (Brigham, 2001). A mnemonic method is used to create a connection between new information to prior knowledge (The Access Center, 2006). As stated previously, they are an effective device that can be used with students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities **and **those who are of average ability (The Access Center, 2006). However, they are especially useful for those who have difficulty recalling verbal and content-area information (The Access Center, 2006).

### Fact or Myth: Are Mnemonic Devices Beneficial in Helping Students with Math?

According to The Access Center (2007), mnemonic devices are valuable strategies in helping students with math. The areas that mnemonics have proven beneficial in helping teach math are: math facts, order of operations, measurement, geometry, problem-solving techniques, and other areas of math (The Access Center, 2007).

### Three Basic Techniques of Mnemonic Strategies

** Keyword: **This memory technique uses visual images to build associations. In the key word approach, students create an image to form a link between the word they are learning and its meaning. (The Access Center, 2006)

- Connecting the keyword strategy to math:

Multiplication Facts: Taking a look at the “2 Family,” students are taught to associate a visual image with each fact in that family and then are given a strategy that utilizes the visual image for solving it (The Access Center, 2006).

**Visual Images for the “2 Family”**

2X2 skateboard with 2 sets of wheels

3X2 six pack of soda

4X2 spider with two sets of four legs

5X2 two hands with all fingers held up

6X2 dozen eggs in a carton

7X2 calendar with 2 weeks circled

8X2 two octopi, each with eight tentacles

9X2 an 18 wheel truck (Wood & Frank, 2000)

**Visual Images for “More Than & Less Than”**

The ducks mouth opening means more! When a student sees a more than or less than math equation, they can think of the ducks mouth opening and wanting to eat the larger number!

** Pegword: **This memory technique “uses a consistent set of rhyming words to represent numbers.” Just like keywords, pegwords provide visual images that can be associated with facts. This in turn allows students to connect the number that rhymes with the pegword. (The Access Center, 2006)

- Connecting the keyword strategy to math:

**Some Examples of Pegwords for Selected Numbers**

Number: |
Pegword: |

One | One is Bun / One is Sun |

Two | Two is Shoe |

Three | Three is Tree |

Four | Four is Door / Four is Floor |

Five | Five is Hive |

Six | Six is Sticks |

Seven | Seven is Heaven |

Eight | Eight is Gate |

Nine | Nine is Vine |

Ten | Ten is Hen |

Eleven | Eleven is Lever |

Twelve | Twelve is Elf |

Thirteen | Thirteen is Thirsting |

Fourteen | Fourteen is Forking |

Twenty | Twenty is Plenty |

Thirty | Thirty is Dirty |

Forty | Forty is Warty |

Sixty | Sixty is Witchy |

Seventy | Seventy is Heavenly |

Eighty | Eighty is Weighty |

It’s important to keep in mind that students must have a solid understanding of the pegword before the strategy can be implemented. An example of how to apply the pegword strategy is as follows: To teach the mach fact 6X6, the student would first be taught the pegword “sticks” to link it with the number six. Once a student learns all the pegwords, the student can learn the pegword strategy for 6X6 (sticks X sticks) = 36 (dirty sticks)! (The Access Center, 2006)

To further illustrate the steps to teach the 6×6 pegword strategy follow these steps:

- Use the pegword flashcard, which has corresponding visual symbols.
- Teach students how to use the Pegword Strategies.
- Have students say the pegword strategy for each math fact.
- Example: Sticks (6) and Sticks (6) equals

Dirty Sticks (36)

(The Access Center, 2006)

** Letter:** This memory technique involves the uses of acronyms and acrostics. An acronym is a word made up of the first letter of each of a series of words. Words made from the first letters of a series of words are often used to assist in memory. An acrostic is a device in which the first letters in a series of words spell out a word/phrase or correspond to the first letters in another series of words to be memorized. (The Access Center, 2006)

- Connecting the letter stratgey to math:

Acronym: How to solve word problems can be challenging for a lot of students. An acronym that helps student complete these is **STAR**.

**Strategy for problem-solving: **

**S**earch the word problem

**T**ranslate the words into an equation in picture form

**A**nswer the problem

**R**eview the solution

Acronym: Another strategy used to solve addition, subtraction, and multiplication problems is **DRAW**.

**Strategy for computation: **

**D**iscover the sign

**R**ead the problem

**A**nswer or draw a representation of the problem using lines, tallies, or checks

**W**rite the answer and check

(The Access Center, 2006)

Acrostic:

Math Mnemonic | Math Meaning |

Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally (PEMDAS) |
Students have to follow “order of operations,” which is defined to be in the following order: Parentheses (and other symbols of inclusion); Exponents; Multiplication and Division, in order from left to right; Addition and Subtraction, in order from left to right. |

Kangaroos Hop Down British Driveways Carrying M&Ms (KHDBDCM) |
The basic prefixes for the metric system from largest to smallest: Kilo, Hecto, Deka, Base, Centi, Milli |

King Henry Drank Both Diet Cokes Monday (KHDBDCM) |
The basic prefixes for the metric system from largest to smallest: Kilo, Hecto, Deka, Base, Centi, Milli |

Does McDonald’s Sell CheeseBurgers and Shakes |
Order of the algorithm of a long division problem: Divide, Multiply, Subtract, Check that division is larger than your remainder, Bring down the next number, Start all over again |

Dad Mom Sister Brother |
The steps for long division are Divide, Multiply, Subtract, Bring Down |

Click on the following link to see a quick video of a group of fifth grades students demonstrating the long division mnemonic strategy! Steps-to-Divide

### Connecting Mnemonics to Universal Design for Learning

*Principle 1: Provide Multiple Means of Representation*

Guideline 1: Provide Options for Perception

- Offer alternatives for auditory information

Guideline 2: Provide Options for Language, Mathematical Expressions, and Symbols

- Clarify vocabulary and symbols
- Illustrate through multiple media

Guideline 3: Provide Options for Comprehension

- Activate or supply background knowledge
- Highlight patterns, critical features, and big ideas
***Maximize generalization and transfer***

*Principle 2: Provide Multiple Means of Action and Expression*

Guideline 5: Provide Options for Expression and Communication

- Build Fluencies with Graduated Levels of Support for Practice and Performance

Guideline 6: Provide Options for Executive Functions

- Support Planning and Strategy Development
- Facilitate Managing Information and Rescources

*Principle 3: Provide Multiple Means of Engagement*

Guideline 7: Provide Options for Recruiting Interest

- Optimize individual choice and autonomy
- Optimize relevance, value, and authenticity

Guideline 8: Provide Options for Sustaining Effort and Persistence

- Vary the demands and resources to optimize challenge

Guideline 9: Provide Options for Self-Regulation

- Facilitate personal coping skills and strategies

All of these principles and guidelines can be found on the CAST.org website.

### Critique:

Although I have never taught students to use mnemonics, I think that they are a terrific and effective way to help those who struggle with memorization in Math. It’s important for teachers to remember to repeatedly model how to use a mnemonic strategy that works well for a student so they can successfully and independently use them. One word of caution is to allow students to use a mnemonic that works for them. It is okay if they come up with their own acrostic or keyword strategy as long as they are using it appropriately! I can still remember, and still apply when doing order of operations: Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally!

Links:

http://www.dldcec.org/pdf/teaching_how-tos/using_memory-enhancing_stra.pdf

http://www.ldonline.org/article/5896

http://deafed.department.tcnj.edu/math/computation.html

http://www.ldonline.org/article/5912

References:

Brigham, R. & M. (2001). Mnemonic instruction. Retrieved March 14, 2011 from http://www.dldcec.org/ld_resources/alerts/5.htm

The Access Center. (2007). Using mnemonic instruction to facilitate access to the general education curriculum. Retrieved March 14, 2011 from http://www.ldonline.org/article/15577

The Access Center. (2006). Using mnemonic instruction to teach math. Retrieved March 12, 2011 from http://www.ldonline.org/article/Using_Mnemonic_Instruction_To_Teach_Math

The Goddess Path. (2001-2011). Mnemosyne, goddess of memory. Retrieved March 14, 2011, from http://www.goddessgift.com/goddess-myths/g-mnemosyne.htm

on April 7, 2011 at 1:04 am |dkelley717Hi Renae,

I found your post on mnemonics in math very informative. When I was working with students in the upper elementary grades I used several of these strategies and they enjoyed the “tricks”. I was recently observing a 5th grade co-taught math class and the teachers were reviewing the steps for long division. The special ed teacher frequently chimed in and referred the students back to the mnemonic.

I know your post focused on math mnemonics but did you come across any worth-while mnemonics for other content areas? Just curious to know if you found anything else I can add to my “bag of tricks”.

Diana