What kids aren't fascinated by magic at some point in their lives (I think it's a required phase, like dinosaurs). There's actually a lot of math that goes into magic tricks, especially the ones that appear to be mind reading. The math manipulates you to turn to a certain page in a book or end a calculation by coming up with your age or house number. My Schnickelfritz is in that magic phase of life (he got called up on stage to help a magician in Branson and attended magic camp last summer). I've found several resources that combine math and magic. PLEASE NOTE: Usually magicians never tell secrets and I am not sharing any secrets from purchased magic books or tricks. All the material I'm using comes from math books, not magic books.
Math-A-Magic: Number Tricks for Magicians by Laurence B. White
This book contains 21 tricks. Each gives an overview of what should happen when performing the trick, how to do it, and the Math-a-Magic secret. The last section gives the math principle that allows the trick to work (which, math geek that I am, is the best part). The book is geared to ages 9 and above, but some of the tricks only require counting so even younger kids could get involved. Here's a favorite:
Super MemoryThe Trick: Give someone a piece of paper and ask them to write down a long number--say 15 digits. Ask her to say each digit allowed because you're going to "memorize it." When she's done ask her to cross out one number and then rearrange all the others into a 14 digit number. Have her read the each digit of the new number. Your magician's patter is that you have memorized both numbers and are comparing the two and will be able to tell her which number was crossed out.
How to Do It: When the person is reciting each number you must add them up in your head. In our example the 15 digits add up to 58 (this is the number you need to remember), when one digit is removed the new sum is 49. Now all you have to do is subtract 49 from 58 and you know the missing digit was 9.
Math-a-Magic Secret: When most people will see only a long, hard-to-remember number. You've misdirected them by saying you're memorizing it when all you're doing is adding and subtracting.
Mastering Math through Magic by Mary Lombardo
There are actually 3 books in this series geared towards grades 2-3, 4-6, and 6-8 (we have the middle one). The book is actually written to teachers so it goes into a little detail about objectives, correlation with National Math standards, etc. The math requirements are addition (with carrying), subtraction (with borrowing), multiplying and dividing. The 30+ tricks are divided into categories like Calendar Capers, Dice Doings, Money Madness. Again you always get a step-by-step run through, the secret, and an explanation why the trick works. There are a few I hesitate to call "tricks," like using your finger to multiply by 9. Still it's a good tool for teaching the times table.
EZ Math Trix DVD
My son checked this DVD out of the library so many times, I ended up getting him his own copy. It's not strictly magic tricks. A lot is simply shortcuts to help you do math in your head faster--like multiplying a 2 digit number by 11. The way most learned in school is
The shortcut is to separate the two digits on the paper and then place the sum of the two digits in between them.
Once you've mastered the skill, there's a great trick on the DVD.
Have someone write down two 1-digit numbers on a piece of paper or chalk board, etc. and add them together. Then add the second number to the third and write down the sum. Have them continue this process until they have 10 numbers. Then ask them to add all ten numbers together--you can even give them a calculator. You'll solve it in your head and in mere seconds!
The secret is to take the fourth number from the bottom and multiply it by 11. (You can start solving the problem as soon as they've written it down).
Now if you have older kids (or math geeks), try showing them the magic trick and see if they can use algebra to explain why it works. For this trick lets replace the first two numbers with X and Y...
One of my main goals as a teacher has been to show my son that learning can be fun. That's not always easy where math is concerned, but why don't you see for yourself if a little magic can do the trick (pun intended).
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