In this series, I’m compiling some of the quips and one-liners that I’ll use with my students to hopefully make my lessons more memorable for them.

One of my favorite one-liners is simply stated: “Mathematicians are lazy.” I’ll use this whenever I introduce my students a new piece of mathematical notation or lingo.

For example, in probability, a common notion is a sequence of independent and identically distributed random variables (say, rolling a die repeatedly). However, mathematicians will typically write “i.i.d.” instead of “independent and identically distributed.” Why? That’s when I break out the mantra: “Mathematicians are lazy.” It’s my quick way of saying, “Hey, this is new notation that you’re about to learn, but the whole point of new notation is to make writing mathematical ideas a little quicker.”

Mathematical notation like can appear very intimidating when students first encounter them. Hopefully repeating this mantra a few dozen times each semester makes the introduction of new notation a little more palatable for my students.

I'm a Professor of Mathematics and a University Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of North Texas. For eight years, I was co-director of Teach North Texas, UNT's program for preparing secondary teachers of mathematics and science.
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