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. Today’s quip is a follow-up to yesterday’s post and is one that I’ll use when I need my students to remember something that I taught them earlier in the semester — perhaps even the previous day.

For example, in my applied statistics class, one day I’ll show students how to compute the expected value and the standard deviation of a random variable:

Then, the next time I meet them, I start working on a seemingly new topic, the derivation of the binomial distribution:

.

This derivation takes some time because I want my students to understand not only how to use the formula but also where the formula comes from. Eventually, I’ll work out that if and ,

Then, I announce to my class, I next want to compute and . We had just done this the previous class period; however, I know full well that they haven’t yet committed those formulas to memory. So here’s the one-liner that I use: “If you had a good professor, you’d remember how to do this.”

Eventually, when the awkward silence has lasted long enough because no one can remember the formula (without looking back at the previous day’s notes), I plunge an imaginary knife into my heart and turn the imaginary dagger, getting the point across: You really need to remember this stuff.

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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