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Monday, February 17, 2014

how to memorize the presidents

This is Martin Van Buren, the eighth President of the United States. 
When was the last time you thought about Martin Van Buren?

I was with my friend, Jake, and he was paying our dinner tab with a $100 bill, a bit of an overkill considering dinner was just $36 but that's Jake. I wondered who walks around with $100 bills. So, I said to him "Jake, don't look down. If you can tell me who is on the $100 bill as well as the other Presidents on the bills, dinner is on me." 

"$100 Ben Franklin, not a President.
$50 Ulysses S. Grant
$20 Andrew Jackson
$10 Alexander Hamilton, not a President but a Founding Father, 
$5 Lincoln
$1 Washington"

I started to ask a question but Jake raised his forefinger and said "And, TJ, before you ask, Jefferson is on the $2 bill."

Of course, a man who pays for dinner with a $100 bill would know this. I was curious though so I asked. 

"So, you just carry $100 bills in your wallet."

He smiled. "Yes, that's how I roll." He paused. "Nanh, just kidding. My godfather gave me this last Christmas and I've been carrying it around. I thought you'd be impressed."

"I'm actually more impressed that you knew who was on the $2 bill. Give me the bill, smartypants."

It was after this dinner that I decided that for a Politics major I remembered little about the Presidents anymore so I made it my mission to memorize all 44 Presidents. 

I started by looking up the Presidents. If you'd like to know more about them, visit the The White House site by U.S. Government. Here you'll find a list of all 44 Presidents as well as facts and trivia about each President. 

Here is the complete list courtesy of the U.S. Government

18th Century

1. George Washington2. John Adams

19th Century

3. Thomas Jefferson15. James Buchanan
4. James Madison16. Abraham Lincoln
5. James Monroe17. Andrew Johnson
6. John Quincy Adams18. Ulysses S. Grant
7. Andrew Jackson19. Rutherford B. Hayes
8. Martin Van Buren20. James Garfield
9. William Henry Harrison21. Chester A. Arthur
10. John Tyler22. Grover Cleveland
11. James K. Polk23. Benjamin Harrison
12. Zachary Taylor24. Grover Cleveland
13. Millard Fillmore25. William McKinley
14. Franklin Pierce

20th Century

26. Theodore Roosevelt35. John F. Kennedy
27. William Howard Taft36. Lyndon B. Johnson
28. Woodrow Wilson37. Richard M. Nixon
29. Warren G. Harding38. Gerald R. Ford
30. Calvin Coolidge39. James Carter
31. Herbert Hoover40. Ronald Reagan
32. Franklin D. Roosevelt41. George H. W. Bush
33. Harry S. Truman42. William J. Clinton
34. Dwight D. Eisenhower

21st Century

43. George W. Bush44. Barack Obama

So, now to memorize them all.

I have always been a student who needed mnemonics (i.e. HOMES Lakes Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior.) To start, break the Presidents up into groups i.e. (WAJMMAJBHT: Washington Always Jumped Many Many Alps Just Because He Tried). Create four sentences like this and you'll be able to remember the Presidents in no time.

The other options are repetition and repetition with song. The first one is for you hard core readers. Write out the Presidents on index cards or on a list in your phone and when you're waiting for someone or for the train, study the list. I tried this method by writing the Presidents on the wall of our shower with waterproof crayon. It surprised Larry one morning but at least now we're both memorizing the Presidents.

Then of course, you could go the whole "Learning my ABC's Song"  or the Schoolhouse Rock route and write a song with all the President's names. It's just about getting your brain to wrap itself around the names so that you say Van Buren you know that William Henry Harrison comes next.

Want to memorize The Preamble of The Constitution? Watch this classic from Schoolhouse Rock.

Good luck! If anything, remembering the Presidents just might get you a free dinner.

Happy Presidents Day!
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