The link between magic and mathematics is not new. There is written evidence of numerical magic games in a text by Luca Pacioli and Leonardo da Vinci, who lived between the mid-15th century and the beginning of the 14th century. What is new is that more and more mathematics teachers are trained as magicians to improve the learning and results of their students in this discipline.

Yesterday a large group of them did so at the conference “MAGMA, magic and mathematics: education, dissemination, excitement and fun”, organized by the Federation of Entities for the Teaching of Mathematics in Catalonia (Feemcat) and the Resource Center for Teach and Learn Mathematics (Creamat), which brought together a group of magicians and mathemagos (teachers who already practice magic in their classes) to show the possibilities that this art offers in the world of mathematical education.

But what interest is there in training teachers in magic tricks? “Magic is a very powerful tool from an educational point of view because it captures attention and offers motivation to better transmit knowledge, in addition to having an important recreational component, and science has shown that motivation and play help learning.” “, responds Ignasi Stigman, known as Mag Stigman, who has long offered workshops in schools and university courses in Blanquerna (URL) for teachers and professors to use magic as a teaching instrument.

In the following video you can see him fully demonstrating a math game during the interview held to prepare this report last week.

“Magic has some peculiarities that are more difficult to achieve in students with other resources: when they see an effect, the first thing they want is to know how it is done, their innate curiosity is awakened, and if the explanation is mathematical, you will have already achieved that the student wants to learn that concept; Added to that is that it generates surprise, joy… and the most powerful learning is achieved when it is associated with emotions,” agrees Sergio Belmonte, a mathematician and high school teacher who, looking for activities with everyday objects to teach math to his students, does time he discovered mathemagic and decided not only to investigate mathematically based games but also to train as a magician to improve his artistic skills and achieve better results with his students.

Belmonte, who also trains other colleagues, emphasizes the parallelism between learning magic and mathematics. “They make you a game, you see it and then you have to learn how it is made by learning some skills and manipulative techniques that later help you make other games; In mathematics the same: we have a problem, we learn how to solve it, we learn mathematical techniques and then you can apply those techniques to solve other problems or create new ones,” he points out.

Stigman adds that, in addition, almost all magic effects have a mathematical component behind them. “With multiples of nine we can do a lot of mathemagic; and if you teach students that rule, they can put magic games into practice and that motivates them to see mathematics from another perspective and to continue learning,” he comments.

And what do the teachers think? Do you dare to act as magicians? Both Stigman and Belmonte affirm that magic is a very well received resource in training, perhaps because those who attend are people who want to disseminate, who enjoy teaching, and see that this resource is innovative and at the same time invites reflection and thought. computational, which are basic pillars of mathematical learning.

Hence, Belmonte advocates mathemagic as a tool to improve the results of the PISA report. “Through this activity, students are more committed and interested in mathematics and are more likely to have higher performance on these assessments,” she justifies.

Now, to achieve this, Mag Stigman advises teachers to prepare magic games very well so that they are a good mathematical activity. “The final objective of this resource is for the student to learn a mathematical concept, not pure entertainment,” he concludes.