Mathematics: It's a kind of magic

The Manual of Mathematical Magic - a unique kit of magical miracles to impress and entertain your friends written by Queen Mary's Matt Parker and Peter McOwan - is being distributed to schools around the country.

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Freely available to any school in England, the Manual exposes the secrets behind street magic, close-up and stage tricks, revealing the varied and exciting everyday uses for the mathematics powering your magic.

Mathematics and magic may seem a strange combination, but many of the most powerful magical effects performed today have a mathematical basis. Maths is also the secret behind the technologies we use, the products we buy and the jobs we do.

Manual author and computer science professor Peter McOwan explains: "It's no surprise that some mathematicians and computer scientists are also keen amateur magicians. Day-to-day we use maths to help explain the natural world, but from time-to-time it's just good fun to use maths for entertainment too."

The Manual gives young mathematicians the chance to be creative, finding new ways to solve problems and discovering the key to the perfect magic trick. Along the journey they will also uncover the skills of a good mathematician, one with the useful employment skills you get from being good at mathematics.

Both Professor McOwan and mathematician co-author Matt Parker regularly visit secondary schools to do Mathematical Magic shows for students.

“Our goal is to help more students engage with Mathematics," reveals Parker, who is also involved with Hefce's More Maths Grads programme. "Magic tricks get the students excited and then we show them the mathematical principles that make the whole trick hang together. We also reveal how the same Mathematics underpins everything from medical scans to sending text messages.”

As well as The Manual of Mathematical Magic, the kit also contains a pack of cards, notebook and pencil – all of which have hidden Mathematical Magic. Teachers can use the tricks in the book in their lessons and then explain the Mathematics and its applications.

“Maths is magic. But too often school maths is a dull diet which sucks the joy out of what should be a thrilling and beautiful subject," said Paul McGarr, Deputy leader Maths Faculty at Langdon Park School where Parker gave a magical lesson to Year 10 pupils this week. "This new pack, quite literally, helps put the magic back into classroom maths. My pupils really loved it, they were engaged, excited and happy – not back for last period of a long day! The 'wow' was audible when they saw some of the tricks demonstrated, and you could almost taste their intense curiosity to find out how it was done using maths. I would strongly recommend teachers to get hold of this pack and use it.”

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