Skip to content # Mathematical Magic for Muggles

## Activity Guide

# This guide looks at the activity in detail and goes into the underlying math.

Zeitz, Paul. (2022). Mathematical Magic for Muggles. In S. Bowen (Ed.), Math Circle Activity Database. American Institute of Mathematics. https://mathcircles.org/activity/mathematical-magic-for-muggles

Contributor(s): Paul Zeitz

Math Circles: MTC Network

- Activity Description
- Topics Covered
- Session Styles
- Mathematical Practices

Presented are several easy-to-perform feats that suggest supernatural powers such as telepathy, “seeing fingers,” predicting the future, photographic memory, etc. Each trick uses simple mathematical ideas that allow information to flow effortlessly and sneakily, among them
simple, efficient “coding”
parity and other invariants
symmetry
probability
One can approach these activities in many ways. At first, you may want to figure out HOW to do a trick. Then, you want to know WHY it works. Finally, you should strive to understand REALLY WHY it works: is there a simple theme or principle behind your possibly complex explanation? Look for simple and general guiding principles.