Mnemonic Weekly Tip: # 34          May 18, 2003
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The Problem
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The language of mathematics can be confusing for both individuals who have learning differences and for those who do not.  If a person without a learning difference does not use the terminology of a subject of study, it can fade from the memory over time.  For the person with a learning difference, it may be difficult to learn the terminology in the first place.  This is true for the words and concepts of complementary and supplementary angles. 

The Mnemonic: 
This week’s mnemonic clues demonstrates that there is no one right way to develop a mnemonic clue.  Different clues will work for different individuals.  One clue for remembering the difference between complementary and supplementary angles is to use the alphabet.  The letter C comes before the letter S.  This concept is linked to the idea that on a circle the 90 degree complementary angle comes before the 180 degree supplementary angle.
Another way to remember these terms and concepts comes from Lynn Mikuliak, an adult education math teacher at Congresso in Philadelphia.  Lynn teaches her students that complementary angles add up to 90 degrees (right angle) and “It is right to give a compliment.”  Supplementary angles add up to 180 degrees (straight angle) and “People take a calcium supplement to keep their bones straight.”

     A number of teachers and students have asked to have the Mnemonic Clue of the Week sent to them each week. If you would like to receive this service, send your e-mail address to  
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Richard Cooper