Memorization is a useful tool to learn information that is straightforward and objective. School children memorize the multiplication tables, the alphabet, sometimes poetry or other verses. What the brain can do in committing mundane information to memory is phenomenal. It takes time though, at least for most people. Memory athletes, however, spend just a few short minutes memorizing a series of numbers or words, live, usually in front of an audience. There is such a thing as memory championships, and those who compete can dazzle the rest of us with their ability to memorize vast amounts of information on the fly.
Memory athlete Ronnie White, who won the US Memory Championship in 2009 and 2010 says that remembering something is about putting it into storage somewhere, so it can be accessed when needed. Some memory athletes associate names with pictures, or with similar words that begin with the same letter. Each athlete has a different set of tricks to stay on top of the competition. Nelson Dellis is also a well-known competitor. He says that training 3-4 hours per day is what keeps him sharp. Memory competitions have a variety of memory tasks, all of which must be done on a timed basis. The material is a surprise and is usually comprised of poems, number sequences, pictures and lists of words. As each round of the competition progresses, the tasks get tougher. Numbers are especially tricky since they can't easily be reduced to pictures or associated with events.