Two of the best silly phrases we first hear about are learned in kindergarten. We learn them early, but we use them forever.
When we learned to count…
One, two, buckle my shoe;
Three, four, shut the door;
Five, six, pick up sticks;
Seven, eight, lay them straight;
Nine, ten, begin again.
This is a funny, little counting sound, which is easy to remember. It is easy to add variety to, which can make it more fun for early learners. For instance, instead of “nine, ten, begin again,” the rhyme can end with “nine, ten, a big fat hen.”
When we learned the months of the year…
Thirty days have September,
April, June, and November;
Thirty-one the others date,
Except in February, twenty-eight;
But in leap year we assign
With the help of this rhyme, numbering the days in each of the months will not be difficult to grasp.
Mnemonic Devices for 2nd to 6th Grade
A mnemonic device is a phrase that helps us memorize different facts. This type of device can be used for any subject, In math, it is especially helpful for memorizing potentially obscure ideas as relatable ideas. Some examples:
If kids have difficulty remembering the difference between the top and the bottom part, the numerator and the denominator, of a fraction, we can help them remember more easily with this mnemonic device, which will help them remember the parts of a fraction.
Numerator/Denominator can be learned as North Dakota or Nice Dog.
At school or in an after school enrichment program, we learn long division with many methods but with the divide, multiply, subtract, and bring down method, we use the acronym DMSB. A silly little phrase helps our kids remember this long division method.
“Don’t Make Sally Break Dance!” will help you remember DMSB.
Sometimes kids need help with tough topics such as calculating with multiple operations. In that case, they learn such devices as PEMDAS (parentheses, exponents, multiply, divide, add, and subtract).
PEMDAS can be learned as “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.”
Just as our kids began to learn more about decimals, they were introduced to the metric system. This gave them such prefixes kilo, hecta, deca, units, deci, centi, and milli: KHDUDCM.
Can’t remember KHDUDCM? Try: “King Henry Danced Until Dawn Counting Money.”
Educational Phrases for Middle and High School
Middle and high school students get a lot of practice with mnemonic devices and other silly phrases at both school and after school learning centers. The best ones can help them practice some more challenging math concepts. Some examples:
When dividing fractions, please keep KCF in mind: keep the first fraction the same, change the sign from divide to multiply, and flip the last fraction.
KCF is easy to remember as “Kentucky Chicken Fried,” but it might make you hungry.
For our older students, there are just a few things to remember, and FOIL is one of the best.
In FOIL, distributing binomials should be in order of the “First, Outer, Inner, and Last.”
We use SOH CAH TOA to find the angles or sides of right triangles, but it can be difficult to remember that
Sine = Opposite Cosine = Adjacent Tangent = Opposite
Hypotenuse Hypotenuse Adjacent
In that case, SOH CAH TOA can be remembered with,
“Two Old Angels Skipped Over Heaven Carrying Ancient Harps.”
How to Make Your Own Silly Phrases
Sometimes you need help to learn something that would easier to remember if you had a mnemonic device. For example, the four steps to solving an equation are:
S implify each side.
M ove the variable to one side.
G et the variable alone.
C heck your solution.
The best way to create a mnemonic device from these sentences is to use the first letter of each sentence to form an acronym with which a new phrase can be formed: SMGC.
“Small Mice Grow Corn” could be a silly phrase we could
use to remember the steps to solve an equation.
What do you think? Do you use any other silly phrases or mnemonic devices to make math easier? (To comment, click on the blog title above and a comment box will appear.)
Author: Nicole Acevedo, Program Manager at MathWizard, Inc.