Layer masks: how do you memorize which color means opaque?

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i'm curious how other people regard layer masks. In particular, which
memory aids exist to remember when to use black and when to use white.

Two contradicting examples which both seem to survive inside my head:

   - the (correct) math perspective: black equals zero, zero opacity means fully transparent

   - the (wrong) book example: black is where the letters are printed, that is where the layer
                               is active, that is opaque.

                               This one frequently lets me stumble for a split second, especially
                               when working on a mostly opaque mask over a white background layer..

Obviously, the very question tells i'm using masks not that often..
How do you handle the situation?

Do you use a memory aid to remember when to use black and when to use white?
Or does it seem just natural to you, so you don't have to think (anymore)?
How do you explain the "white means opaque" relationship when teaching masks to other people?

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