One of my pet peeves is when students use acronyms to mask knowledge that they already have, thinking that this somehow makes their life easier. I cannot count the number of times I have heard Precalculus students chanting about ‘All Students Take Calculus’ as a way to remember what trig functions are positive in different quadrants. This, despite the fact that they have known for years that above the x-axis is positive for y and to the right of the y-axis is positive for x. Clearly (to me,at least) this does not add to their knowledge, it just adds a filter that obscures relationships in their knowledge. So, I tell them a story to express my disdain for these kind of meaningless mnemonic devices.
Years ago I had a hilarious student named Jeanine in one of my classes. One day, when walking to lunch, Jeanine calls out to me and says ‘Hey, Mr. Dardy I have a mnemonic to remember how to spell my name!’ She tells me that she just needs to remember
I love this story for a number of reasons. More than 20 years after this happened this still makes me giggle and makes me think of a wonderful former student. It is a true story and my students instantly see how silly it is to have this sort of memory device. I do not know if this has resulted in enough of them abandoning mnemonics but it is a fun story to tell.
This year, I told the story to a class with a student named Genevieve. The class took on the challenge of trying to develop a mnemonic for her name. Here is their result:
This makes me all kinds of happy.