Most of us are fascinated by magic. Indeed, professional magicians captivate their audiences with spectacular displays of magic that leave us awestruck. These “tricks of magic” seem incomprehensible. Yet, many of them are based on mathematics. When I first started teaching, I was assigned a remedial math class that used the textbook: Mathematics, A Human Endeavor, by Harold R. Jacobs. In the teacher section of that book was an interesting activity (or trick) that I used successfully in my class.
Years passed, and I had moved on to another school where I again was assigned to teach a remedial class. The curriculum was so irrelevant to the students that it was very difficult to motivate them. So I decided to write my own curriculum. In the process I thought about using the above-mentioned activity, but I wanted to make it more intriguing. So instead of using numbers, I created a series of 31 geometric shapes and would tell my students that I would use my extra sensory perception (ESP) to identify the shapes selected by my students. The student reactions exceeded my expectations. In fact, I received similar reactions from parents as well as their children when I presented this activity as part of a “MathMagic” night at our school.