On Thursday, February 12th, The New Century School kindergarten and elementary students took a field trip to Goucher College, where they were delighted and amazed . . . by numbers!
The show was put on by Arts on Stage, who provide “Live, Professional Theatre Field Trips for Students and Families.” Inside Goucher’s Kraushaar Auditorium, Master Magician Bradley Fields got a packed audience of elementary-age kids from a dozen or so area schools practicing their math skills from their seats while he “prestidigitated” on stage. The word prestidigitation comes from the Latin for “nimble finger” and denotes performing magic tricks, but Mr. Fields extracts another fortuitous meaning out of the word. His digitation also includes agility with numbers—you know, digits!
Mr. Fields has been called “one of the top magicians in the country” and has appeared on Broadway and on television. His popularity with teachers and students alike should be no surprise—his show integrates math, history, vocabulary, geography, everyday problem-solving, and science, but the audience is captivated by the power and beauty of his illusion-making. He weaves quite a spell with stories of ancient Egyptian pharoahs, soothsayers who accurately predict the future, and a dreaming/sleepwalking banker who turns anything he touches into coins, among others. The audience was so caught up in the enchantment that they didn’t even realize they were practicing addition, subtraction, and more advanced math skills the whole time!
Because his love of numbers and how they interact is so vast, Mr. Fields provides his “tricks” as a downloadable Study Guide so everyone can enjoy math. He also revealed some of the machinery of his act during the performance as if to show the audience that they can also harness the power of illusion.
Please download the Study Guide at the above link, but here is a taste of some math trickery to get you started!
Magical effect: You guess any number your audience is thinking.
How to perform:
- Ask your audience to think of any number but keep it secret: e.g., 10
- Now ask him or her to double the secret number: e.g., 20 (10 x 2 = 20)
- Now ask him or her to multiply by 5: e.g., 100 (20 x 5 = 100)
- Ask him or her to give you the final answer (i.e., 100).
- Reveal their secret number! Secret: once you know the final answer, mentally slice off and discard the rightmost digit (i.e., the last 0).
Too easy for you? Try this one!
Miracle Number Prediction
Magical effect: You will read your audience’s mind.
How to perform:
- Announce that you will read your audience’s mind.
- Ask him or her to hold an envelope in which you have sealed your prediction of his or her mathematical thoughts.
- Ask him or her to write down a number made of 3 different digits (the first and last digits must differ by more than 1): e.g., 937
- Tell him or her to reverse the number and subtract the smaller number from the larger: e.g., 937 – 739 = 198
- Have him or her reverse the difference and add: e.g., 198 + 891 = 1,089
- Now ask the envelope-keeper to open your prediction and read it aloud. Bet you didn’t know that the answer will always be 1,089!
Amazing telepathy! Amazing, magical math!