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Math Corner: Add a Bit of Magic

July 29, 2008 · Filed Under Uncategorized · Comment 

Sometimes children need a bit of help to see the magic in mathematics.  If you like numbers, it’s magical the way they form patterns and follow rules.  It’s fantastic the way you can bend them to your will and get them to describe the world around you.  But if numbers are scary or boring or incomprehensible to students, they may need some additional motivation to begin to enjoy math.

This is where magic, as in sleight of hand, comes in.  Because numbers are so very predictable, there are many magic tricks, card tricks and mind reading tricks that rely on properties of numbers.  Some are quite easy to learn and to demonstrate, and if you choose your moment wisely, can be great motivators for your children or students. 

Here’s an easy one:  Choose a number between 1 and 20.  Multiply by 2, then add six.  Divide by 2.  Subtract the original number.  You can astound your audience by announcing that the answer is 3.  It’s always three, no matter what number was chosen to start with.  You could even seal the ‘prediction’ away in an envelope for added mystery.  Older students, once they try the trick, can be challenged to write an equation for the process, or to explain why the trick works.

You can get alot of mileage out of math magic.  You’ll want to give it a try!  Here are websites and books to help you:

Stunning Friends with Math Magic

Carnival Math from Funschool

Math Magic Tricks

Gnarly Math

And from Amazon:



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© 2008 Sandy Fleming

Celebrate July 7

July 7, 2008 · Filed Under Holidays, Math, Reading, Writing · Comment 

Guess what?  It’s Chocolate Day!  Here is a wealth of ideas to try for fun and learning on this delicious holiday:

Research the History of Chocolate

Send the kids onto the internet, through the encyclopedia or over to the library to uncover exactly how and when this great treat was discovered.  Here’s a hint: check history records for the native Central and South Americas, and information about the Spanish explorers of the 1600s and 1700s.

Cook Together

Cook up some chocolate delight today.  Recipes abound!  Think of brownies, fudge, and cookies.  See if you can invent a new chocolate sensation together.  Cooking with children builds bonds, increases reading comprehension, develops the ability to follow written and oral directions, enhances science and math skills, and so much more.

Make a Candy Survey

Check in with family and friends to find out what their favorite chocolate candy is.  Keep records of their responses, then present the data in a graph.  Older students can also analyze the information: does age, gender or profession make any difference on candy preferences?  You have the makings of a science fair project for next year!

Try Some Chocolate Science

Get a few chocolate bars, some baking chips, and you’re all set for some science fun.  Place a chocolate bar on two supports, like a bridge.  How many pennies or other weights can it hold before it cracks?  What happens if the chocolate is warm and soft?  What if it’s been in the freezer?  Try putting chocolate in various shapes out in the sun.  Time how long it takes it to melt.  Use the chocolate chips to practice making arrays to demonstrate addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.  Got yummy leftovers?  Eat ‘em up!

Write About Chocolate

Individually or as a family, write a story with chocolate as the main character.  This can be oral or written, just make sure it’s full of imagination!  Try these variations: Write a story starter (a few sentences) on a page and post it on the ‘fridge.  Family members take turns adding to the story all day long.  Try sitting in a circle or around a table and each adding a sentence to the story.  Let everyone write or dictate their own story and get a non-biased judge to evaluate your writing contest.

Happy Chocolate Day!


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© 2008 Sandra Fleming

Practice Math Facts with a Bit of Rhythm!

June 26, 2008 · Filed Under Math · Comment 

Many people learn best with music or a beat, and children are no exception as they try to memorize those pesky old math facts.  Try this neat trick to help your child or student stick those facts this summer.

Get a ball that you can bounce and play catch with, like a playground ball or a basket ball.  Dribble the ball and bounce it one time for each number, the operation sign and the word “equals”.  Toss the ball to a partner when you say the answer to the fact.

Here’s how it sounds: “One” (bounce) “times” (bounce) “four” (bounce) “equals” (bounce) “FOUR!” (toss).

Pick up speed as you practice and your child will be a whiz at the math facts in no time!



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© 2008 Sandy Fleming