Handy sets of facts to memorize

Rote memorization gets a bum rap, but sometimes it can be useful. I’m glad I was made to memorize the times tables up to 12, for example; I can’t remember whether I knew exactly how the process of multiplication worked at the time, but it’s sure handy some 20 years later to have all those sets immediately available at my fingertips.

So what other sets of facts would it be helpful to have memorized? Never mind concepts, necessarily: I’m looking for stuff that can fit on a pack of flashcards. Some ideas:

State/province capitals
Major country capitals
Presidents’ terms of office (even if you don’t know anything about a president, it would give a helpful framework if you knew automatically who was in the White House in any given year - would help connect the dots as you learned more history later on)

What else?

Backwards alphabet… ;0


Not even going to check it…

Did that one particularly boring day in middle school when I should probably have been paying attention and memorizing something worthwhile! :wink:

ETA: And yep - you got it right.

Hahaha… It’s a fun party trick, but that’s about all.

Thought of another one: names of sports teams in major American cities.

I don’t follow any sports, and seldom discuss them. But I do think that knowing where the Bulls or the Red Sox or whatever are located is probably the minimum I should do to being culturally literate in that area…

You might want to look at some flashcard apps/sites. They typically have public card sharing functionality, and they have lists of the most popular sets of cards.

I currently am using iFlipr on my iPhone to slog through a deck of ~700 Portuguese words. I just looked up their “Featured” list and see the following:

U.S. States/Capitals
Government: Bill of Rights
2 letter Scrabble words
The Greek Alphabet (both cases)
MCAT: Organic Chemistry
Presidents (with pictures)
Basic Muscles
Bird Calls, West U.S. (mp3s)
World Flags
Poker Math - Texas Holdem

There’s your list of capitals.
For Scrabble players, the 2-letter words list seems useful. The Greek alphabet might be interesting, as well as basic muscles. Bill of Rights is cool too.

Some of the others are more specialized, but these kinds of card-set lists are a start.

That’s perfect - the Bill of Rights one is especially good. I might even go so far as to say all the US Constitutional Amendments (or at least the major ones). The bird calls one would be pretty neat, too.

You should definitely know weights and measures and conversions - how many teaspoons in a tablespoon, how many feet in a mile, how to get kilometers out of miles, etc. (I never did learn much of it in school and regret that now - I always forget the cooking ones, and I cook a lot!)

I get a lot of cred, and occasionally use, out of having memorized the English auxiliary verbs in fifth grade. Is am are was were be being been has had have do does did shall will should would may might must can could.

Oh, and shoulda, woulda, coulda.

+1 for constitutional ammendments

top 10 landmark supreme court decisions. Marbury v. Madison

basic unit of measure conversions gal/4=quart/2=pint/2=cup, 5,280 ft/mile etc.

termini and general paths of interstate highways.

Past 5 British monarchs and top 5 heirs in line.

Rank and insignia of the US military, E-1 to O-10, all branches.

Abbreviations for the states: CA=California, that type of stuff. It is useful. I had an English teacher in the 8th grade that made us learn them. I don’t really know why, but I’m glad she did.

Squares up to 15 or 25.

Dates of 25 or so epic events in world history, to serve as a framework. *Which *25 could be a great debate, I suspect. The point would be not which events were most important, but which events are most useful for establishing other approximate dates.

Scrabble-legal 2 letter words (78 of them, I think).

Basic math formulae like area and volume. Yes it comes in handy when trying to figure out how much stain you need for your deck, or how much water is in your pool, etc.

For example, I calculated – in my head – the area of stone coverage needed around my circular pool while walking around at Home Depot. In this example it’s good to also know what pi is. 3.14 is close enough, but for some reason i know it as 3.14159265359. (Not that I used that in my brain calculation!)

These are perhaps better described as “antifacts”, but they’re the only items I still remember from my 11th-grade English class some 45+ years ago…

I was in the “you’re really bright” English class, and we students were all pretty sure of ourselves. Our English teacher, Mrs. Sandmeyer, often gave us bits of prose to analyze. Every once in awhile she’d just make up some nonsense phrase and laugh hysterically as we analyzed them with great confidence. The only two things I remember from that year are:

“The sea of noon halts and admires idly the express of utter oblivion”

“Relevance is never exceeded by the prevelance of the inarticulate to digress”

Bless you Mrs Sandmeyer, wherever you are.

Supreme Court Justices and leaning direction
+2 for constitutional amendments (it is truly amazing how often the news and/or protesters use the wrong one)
+1 for major Supreme Court cases (see above)

I think the court is going to have some huge cases with Data and surveillance in the coming years and there is going to be lots of discussion about rights and precedent.

And these are handy facts to memorize are they? Huh?

Types of sailing ships

I memorized the military phonetic alphabet even though I’ve never been in the military. This has come in handy countless times on phone calls to help spell out difficult words.
I memorized some of the metric to English conversions.
25.4 mm per inch
1.6 km per mile
2.2 pounds per kilo
For some reason, I do these conversions every week even though I’m not a lab scientist.

I second this one. My bank caters to military (USAA), so it is really helpful that the phone tellers all know the alphabet. Makes things so much easier than going “D-as in David.”