Tuesday, September 30, 2014

How Many Days Are In This Month?

A well known verse - author unknown.
I can remember reading the above mnemonic in our Mother Goose Book of Nursery Rhymes. I was also required to write it out, several grades in a row, on lined paper. (Remember the kind with two solid lines separated by a dotted line to guide the writer as to how tall to make upper and lower case letters?) This exercise was to help my classmates and I memorize the number of days in each month.

Do kids still learn this poem?

I wonder - is this rhyme even still taught in grade school?  Or is computer access so readily available for us all, that there is no longer any reason to remember this information? Perhaps, rather than crowd children's minds with unnecessary facts, teachers have decided this poem is no longer unimportant, as they can just as easily use the Internet to look it up?

This verse works well - until I get confused

For me, this poem has been useful, but in a limited sort of way.  Because of the first line (and probably because I remember learning this at the beginning of the school year), I can always remember that September has just thirty days.  I have no trouble remembering the 28 and sometimes 29 days of February.  But my brain can easily confuse May for June, because they both have the same number of syllables. Same thing with November and December (October doesn't sound right there though).  This confusion taints the validity of my use of this poem!

Good thing I learned another trick!

Fortunately, during a school recess, a friend taught me a different mnemonic method of counting months on my fist.  I am not sure of the origin, but I have been told it dates back to Roman times.  

The clenched fist method:

  • Make a fist, and hold your hand with the knuckles facing upwards.
  • Use your index finger of the other hand to assign each of your knuckles and the indented areas between them with a month.  
  • Recite the months in order, beginning with January on the first knuckle, February on the indent, etc.  
  • The knuckle of your pinkie finger is therefore July. Start over, naming the first knuckle as August.
  • Any month that lands on a knuckle has 31 days; all the indents have less.

I will never get a job as a modeling my chapped hands — but you get the idea!
Continue naming the months, starting over with knuckles on the same hand.

Knuckles and Indents

Do you think you might have trouble remembering this?  I could easily forget whether it is the knuckles or the indents that represent months with 31 days ... but knowing February is a short month solves this confusion.  I look at where February lands — an indent.  That tells me that all the shorter months (28/29 and 30 days) are indents - and all the longest months (31 days) are knuckles.

So - if you ever see me counting on my knuckles, I am probably just trying to figure out how many days are in a month. This can actually be helpful when there is neither a calendar nor the Internet nearby!

Today is September 30 - and my fist tells me it is therefore the last day of September!  

Did you already know these memory aids? Do you have favorite memory tricks that you use?

This post may be linked to one of the great link-up parties I follow and list on my blog. Check them out!

16 comments :

  1. Great idea! I've never heard of using my knuckles to remember the months before, but I love it. I need all the help I can get when it comes to my memory!

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  2. I always remember 30 days has September, April, June, and November. After that, it all falls into place. :) I don't think I was able to keep it straight until I was an adult though!

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    1. I think I just have trouble trusting my memory ... my knuckles don't lie!

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  3. We use "the clenched fist method" in Japan, too!
    We also have a mnemonic phrase 'Nishimuku samurai,' (a samurai facing west) in Japanese. The first syllable, 'ni', is an abbreviation of 'nigatsu' (February). The second syllable 'shi' stands for 'shi-gatsu' (April). 'Mu' stands for 'June' here, and 'ku,' 'September.' 'Samurai' is associated with November, because their spellings in Japanese look somewhat similar. -- This phrase tells us 'February, April, June, September and November have less than 31 days." -- I could create a blog post about this Japanese mnemonic some day. This is an interesting topic.

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    1. I really appreciate you sharing your traditions from Japan. I would love to read a blog post like the one you mentioned! Thanks for commenting Romi - and I hope the recent volcano eruption in Japan has not involved anyone you know. Thinking of your country ...

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  4. I had never heard of the clenched fist method and appreciate the tutorial. I had heard the Mother Goose mnemonic but it was disrupted by early travels along Route 66. Burma Shave used to put successive red rhyming signs along the highways. One set said "30 days---hath November---April, June--- the speed offender---Burma Shave". I don't know if those signs still exist but they were a fun reminder to velocitized drivers to slow down.

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    1. What a great Route 66 story! Thanks for sharing it Geo!

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  5. I still remember doing this when i was a kid

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    1. I STILL do it ... it is the only way I can remember how many days are in each month!

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  6. I've never heard of using your knuckles, but I have the 30 days hath September thing so stuck in my brain that I'll never need to use them.

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    1. I, unfortunately, have too many versions of the 30 days hath September thing stuck in my brain!

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  7. I still use the verse.....thanks for the new method though. Maybe I can teach it to the hubs. He never did get the hang of the verse. His method is to ask me lol.

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    1. If his method works ... why learn something new?!

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  8. We used that rhyme too
    And my brothers always changed the last line to say 'except for Grandma who rides a bicycle. And yes, I do think of February as grandma.

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    1. Seems like a verse is used all over the world - although your brother's version is certainly unique!!

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