Skip to content ↓
MIT student blogger Laura N. '09

By the numbers by Laura N. '09

Who needs words to talk?

There are certain…traits, shall we say, that are generally indicative of true MIT students. They’re the things that aren’t necessarily true of all MIT students, but are certainly not true of people anywhere else that I know of. They’re the kind of thing that serve as a dead giveaway that the person you’re talking to has been fully and wholeheartedly immersed in the MIT culture.

I am certainly a full-blooded MIT student, and one of those traits is speaking without words.

You’ve all heard the rumors- at MIT, everything is given a number. Classes, buildings, trees…no joke. But I think the fact that we can name any precise location on campus in under 6 digits (usually 5) is pretty distinctive.

Here’s how the numbering system works: the number before the dash gives the building number. The first number after the dash gives the floor in the building, and the numbers after that specify the room. So 54-100 is building 54, first floor, room 00. Simple enough.

But only a true MIT student would know that 16-2 and 8-2 don’t exactly line up, or that most floors of 11 are awkwardly hidden, or that 13 and 54 rooms go into the sixth digit, or that the dome is 10-5 through 10-8, that 32 has sides D and G and God help you if you don’t know which one you’re on or which you’re going to (as is often the case, for me anyway), that 68 is the only building on main campus to run at a non-right angle to all the rest, that 66 is the 30-60-90 triangle, that 18 appears to stand alone but is really connected underground through 56 and 14 or that sub-2 always smells funny.

And only a true MIT student would answer the way I did just the other day to the question, “Do you know where the Lewis Music Library is?” by promptly spitting out “14!” as if that more accurately indicated its location than the full name. The looks I got following that proclamation sorely tempted me to amend my statement, in case those in my company didn’t know where 14 was.

“You know, 14. Right between 2 and 50. Doesn’t everyone know this stuff?”

29 responses to “By the numbers”

  1. ^^i love that kinda naming of places. it´s so practical and a lot more fun than saying building mumble mumble floor 2 room 11…in our school, we have the same way of naming, just that the buildings are named through letters like A or B.

    hope you enjoy the time there!!!

  2. Reg says:

    We use a similar method, more like german student up there, but we have C, D, S and Sp. and of course not all the floors connect. Going from D12 to C11 requires you go down to the lower ground floor, 2 floors below, then back up 1 floor…

  3. Anonymous says:

    not interesting

  4. Sh1fty says:

    we also use a similar method at my school. buildings are named with letters: A, B, C + appendix(my classroom is there), all rooms have their numbers like in a hotel. first number is the floor and the rest is the unique room number :D the only bad thing is that room numbers aren’t sorted so you have absolutely no idea where is the room that you’re looking for :D i believe that learning building numbers will be easy after getting in smile

  5. yohini says:

    This entry was pretty intresting… Any more stories like this? I really enjoyed this one.

  6. Lorena says:

    I love stories like this!

  7. If you are so impressed with this 3 set building code that you should strive to have the school code their buildings with a 4 set 10 digit code system with some spill. The 3 set 6 digit code set only touches the tip of the iceburg in memory techniques. Really it’s just a lazy way to get around. The 4/10 is marginally better. You’d be gushing when you figured it out.

    If you’re really into the system though, I mean really, have the school give every student a different coded number based on interests, talents, dorm local, etc. The sky’s the limit here.

    As far as a true MIT student goes, I’ll keep my dollar with the likes of the most recent Nobel winner or those who can Bring Down the House. The rest are just sort of there to line others pockets.

  8. Solomon says:

    If you have not really experienced this, can you really appreciate its beauty. Well I can’t. If I am a qeer fellow someone should shout it in my face.

  9. Sam says:

    OH GOD, I thought I was the only other person who noticed the terrible funk that always seems to be hanging in the air in the basement of building 2.

  10. Elizabeth says:

    letter-named buildings are very different from the numbering of MIT buildings, in my opinion. MIT is unique in that. Letter buildings (I am saying this from no experience so ignore me those of you who disagree, my school has TLC, Humanities, MS, etc.) imply buildings that look alike and are pretty much all the same. What I do know is that, though letter-naming is common in high schools, most colleges/universities don’t go that way. So pretty much MIT rocks. That’s about all there is to it.

  11. It sounds like naming compound in CAS system….it’s easier to assign a new name, but difficult to remember, and doesn’t necessarily yield any meaning.

  12. Salil says:

    My school has attempted a similar system. The first of three digits is the floor (makes sense) and the rooms with similar second digits are close to each other. However, the “0”s are next to the “70”s and down the hall from the “80”s. The “20”s are next to the “50”s and the “60” are on the other side of the building. There is also an “N” wing between the “10”s and “90”s.

    MIT seems so much simpler…

  13. Alyssa says:

    When I went to go interview with my EC, it was very dark outside and the street he lives on is incredibly long and complicated. I was one minute late because of all the elements, so I apologized profusely for not being there on-time.

    He just apologized right back saying he was sorry his house wasn’t numbered as well as every building at MIT.

    I love you guys…

  14. Solomon says:

    Timothy, why don’t you give me a call one of these days.

  15. Benjamin says:

    Nuts…you didn’t explain the trees! I wanna hear how the trees are numbered!

  16. Sh1fty says:

    Vihang, building 42 is MIT power plant smile getting around campus would be much easier if all buildings numbers were sorted in some way, because 14 being right between 2 and 50 doesn’t make much sense yet smile i guess i’ll get used to it, if i get in…

  17. ttt says:

    I like MIT but this post is a bit stretching.

    Not because you are at MIT then you consider everything MIT is the best in the world. I’ve been dreaming of MIT all my life, but I know there are many people out there who don’t name their buildings as numbers may be much more talented and motivated than the majority of MIT students. Besides, naming buildings according to numbers is something basically every individual, not necessarily bright, can do. But being really super in math and science is a diffferent story.

    Yeah it’s interesting that MIT has all the numbers, we all know this. But the better someone is, he or she should remain even more humble.

  18. Jillian says:

    The way everyone can talk in numbers was one of the aspects of my tour at MIT that made me think that MIT is where I MUST be next year smile Thanks for reminding me smile

  19. Mitra says:

    I once went looking for a room that was actually a phone number. Sad….

  20. ohhhhhhhhhhh… funny… a mix of phon n o and build no !!!

  21. Meara says:

    Wow. This makes me feel much better about deciding God was an electron the other day. My entire Great Books class stared at me. But really, it made sense! We were reading Pascal, and his whole spiel about a point moving infinitely fast sounded just like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle! Which totally blows your mind, when you realize that Pascal was lived during the fifteenth century, before particle physics was even invented.

    That had nothing to do with anything, actually. Oh well. Yay numbers!

  22. Vihang says:

    Uhmmm. What’s 42 ?

  23. Anonymous says:

    @ vihang

    42 is the answer to the ultimate question.

    i’m serious.

  24. Timothy says:

    I’m sure this is really fun. I will be proud to be part of any culture that makes me feel truly unique.

  25. Emily L. says:

    For more information about 42 read the amazing Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. i believe it is a five book trilogy. it’s fantastic. everyone should read it.

  26. u p’ple rock all time

    true MIT student
    it sounds gorgeous

  27. Vihang says:

    Oh ! 42 is the power plant !
    Thus the Answer to the ultimate question is a Power plant !

  28. Josh V says:

    Emily L.

    wait–don’t trilogy’s only have 3 books?