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Magic Maths
February 10, 2012

As a self-confessed maths geek I am not ashamed to admit that I love nothing more than a good puzzle; even better a magic trick. So Derren Brown eat your heart out here are my favourite magic maths resources.

For starters I would recommend Martin Gardiner’s book ‘mathematical magic and mystery’ which contains loads of ideas and tricks which are easy to perform and the maths is well explained.

Number Tricks

There are a lot of tricks which involve taking a number, performing various operations and ending with a prediction, all of these tricks can be proven using algebra. My favourite ever trick of this type is this mind-reader, students will be fascinated and utterly convinced that it can predict their thoughts! This is great as a starter for KS3 to get students working on mental methods of calculations. At a higher level you can get students to investigate why this works and bring in some algebra!

Card Tricks

There are many great card tricks which work due to Maths (see below for some detailed resources), the one below is my favourite, challenge yourself to work it out and amaze the students for instant respect!

Shape Tricks

I was genuinely amazed when I discovered the amazing properties of the Möbius strip whilst at University and it never fails to impress. The video below demonstrates only a few of the activities you can do, this makes a great shape lesson, ask students to predict each time what will happen and watch them gasp in amazement (no, really!)

I am a big fan of origami and I think this falls into the category of magic, this is my favourite origami activity, students can follow the video to make a lotus flower. This makes a really nice shape lesson (also involving fractions, angle and proportion) and you can bring in some cultural discussion too. Alternatively these are some nice origami resources with clear instructions.

Great General Resources

  • This resource contains twenty-five great tricks which are all clearly linked to the curriculum, magic squares, number tricks, topological tricks and more!
  • This is a great booklet with tricks for students, I have used this with year 7 and 8’s as an ice breaker at the start of term. In the first lesson they each get given a trick to learn and in the following lesson they have to perform and explain it.
  • I am a big fan of Matt Parker and he has provided loads of amazing ideas on mathematical magic, this booklet contains so many genuinely fascinating tricks including how to calculate faster than a calculator and how to teleport mathematically!

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Sharon Derbyshire




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