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.

I’ll often have my students pull out their calculators and assist me as we proceed through some big procedure… this hopefully keeps students engaged and also provides a deliberate pause so that (hopefully) what I’ve been teaching them has a little extra time to sink in before we move on to the next topic. Still, I hate dead silence, and so I’ll often throw in a little quip now and then to break up the silence.

For example, suppose that it’s necessary to find the first few digits of the decimal expansion of . As they pull out their calculators, I might say something like, “I’ll be nice and spot you the 0,” and write

on the board. This usually gets a knowing laugh… clearly the answer is between 0 and 1, but getting even the next two significant digits requires a little bit more work. When students get the answer from their calculators, then we’ll fill in the next few digits after the decimal point.

Or, say that we have to compute . As they’re punching into their calculators, I’ll say “I’ll be nice and spot you the negative sign”:

,

and then write down the digits after the negative sign after their calculators return the first few significant digits.

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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