# Does Math Magic Ever Really Entertain?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by William Draven, Aug 26, 2013.

1. #1
You've all seen them at some point in time or another. The math-magical trick. The magician usually tells you to think of a number, then runs you through a sequence of adding, subtracting, multiplying, etc to come to an answer that they've already predicted.

For example, we can try one right now. Pick any number you want. Go ahead. Now double it. Now add six. Good divide by two. Subtract your original number from that. Got it? Circle your answer. Now focus on your answer and ask your self How does he know I circled a three?

Does this stuff ever really work though on an entertaining level? To me it just seems so flimsy. Does anyone have any experience working with mathmagic for real audiences that you can share?

2. #2
I find that generally those types of math tricks won't impress or entertain many adults, but might work on children. The tricks like the example you gave, seem to me very "non-magical", as the trick is just simple, logical math.

However, I have seen some amazing math magic which involves (either as the presentation or the method) rapid calculations, magic squares etc which I think can be very entertaining/amazing.

So I think it depends on the effect, as is the case most of the time.

3. #3
I think that, when presented baldly, they're only interesting as puzzles or curiosities. And then only to the type of people who you might find at Gathering for Gardner. In other words, no, not particularly entertaining to a general audience. It's basically showing your working, kind of like demonstrating a second deal then performing a simple "count down" kind of effect using that as a method. It might be vaguely interesting but it's not particularly magical. On the other hand, when mathematical principles are disguised they can be incredibly powerful, even for a lay audience. Lennart Green, Dani Da Ortiz, Woody Aragorn and Derren Brown are a few names that come to mind of very good performers who I've seen use maths as a method and blow people away.

Fundamentally, I think it's a similar question to asking "is a classic pass entertaining?" If you're good at it and you're performing for pass fans then it might be in and of itself. Usually, though, it's at its most entertaining when used as a secret method rather than the blatant premise of the performance.

4. #4
That's actually a good point. You can use Maths as the effect, just like William Draven describes, or you could use them just as the method. The first examples that come to my mind are The Terrorist by Lennart Green, a card effect with a mathematical principle in order to control the selection, and 99 by Jay Sankey, who uses Maths to force a word from a list.

I really like this thread, let's see what people says on this topic!

Xabier

5. #5
I've seen self-working effects presented well. But they were never presented as math.

6. #6
Last edited by a moderator: Aug 26, 2013
I think that there is a difference.

1. Math magic which is presented as such. For example a math genious who is showing his skills. It can be entertaining, but you have to do the "real" thing. And it isn`t really magical.
2. Magic which involves math principles. For example a trick with the GB principle. Nobody would think of this as a mathematical principle. You can also mix SOH and mathematical principles. There are many math principles which are so deep buried in the handling that nobody will suspect anything tricky if done right. (faro-mathematics, GB, Bob Hummers CATO etc.)
3. Boring procedures which scream "math trick". The one William described. I personally hate such procedures. I dislike boring counting, spelling or adding numbers, tricks.
With few exceptions (Woody Aragons "Routined spelling" for example which seems impossible and is entertaining...although it`s not entirely self-working, or Michael Vincents "The Intuition Speller").
However, I like sucker tricks which are sold as boring math tricks but with a big surprise in the end that cannot be explained by math.

To me, mathematical principles are just a tool, a method. Often the best method due to the "hands off" nature.
I would encourage everyone interested in this to read Woody Aragons essay on the subject (Math Magic in "A book in English"), and Persi Diaconis book: "Magical Mathematics, The Mathematical Ideas That Animate Great Magic Tricks".

7. #7
It is so dependant on presentation. I have been doing a magic square routine for years that I am able to get wonderful reactions. It has actually become one of my favourite things to preform because I get to watch peoples reaction evolve from 'um this looks like math it is going to be boring- wait this is kind of impressive- all the way to no way, how on earth did you just do that?!?'

Harry Anderson does a really entertaining magic square presentation. I have a vivid memory of seeing Reveen doing a 'Kinght's Tour' which is basically a math puzzle and number predictions can entertain when handled well they just need a lot of thought put into the routine.

8. #8
I'm with everybody else, it's just how it's presented I believe all good effects have a great story to go with it.

9. #9
I. Hate. Math. Magic.

Unless... The math is completely disguised and justified.

Math magic works because it confuses the audience. In your example above it works on us because we choose to not follow the workings of it.
If we think about it, it makes sense sense why that works. Confusion isn't magic-(though it can be used as a tool for misdirection).

Harry Anderson makes the magic square hide the math. But it's still a magic square. A big fat math trick that produces not reactions of "What on earth? How did he do that? He must have some strange esp abilities", but instead, "ah that's clever! How did he figure that out so fast? Must be some math thing."

Show me a good math trick and I will show you why it's still just a math trick.

In my opinion, it pales in comparison to the other effects in a mentalist's bag of tricks.

10. #10

11. #11
I only can explain it , how you work the trick , how about your presentation ,
Some of the Magicians can talk A Story about the Mathematic Trick , but they still impress their Spectator .
I promote Simon Aronson , or Nick Trost , Truly Amazing and Impossible of their Card Trick , both of them are Immortal !!

12. #12
I HATE those "tricks"...I have never seen anyone present that as math magic and get a good reaction.... mostly because it possible that some people on the audience knows this trick, also it kind of obvious that what you do is not magic...but math...

13. #13
i take a keen interest into maths and all of its aspects including gaming and trick all along .. i have saved the titles of the books referring the same mentioned here.. and would love to learn if tricks given there are easily adoptable to me .... by the way, i don't miss even a single show whether on TV or live at some location of my home town that impresses me much and the magic based upon the maths is shown there keeps revolving into my mind later for a while..

14. #14
Every mentalist I know does these types of math tricks. I'm curious to hear more from Steerpike and Craig about this aspect of mentalism.

15. #15
Last edited by a moderator: Sep 5, 2013
David Regal has an amazing math based trick that is also a "jokers are the detectives" trick.

16. #16
Like I said, there are mentalism effects that involve numbers and, to a lesser extent, math. Docc Hilford has a trilogy of booklets about this sort of thing imaginatively titled the Books of Numbers. But they're never portrayed as a quirky coincidence of arithmetic. Even the most barebones effect in the whole thing, an effect called Ghostotal, involves an undercurrent of psychic connectivity.

But that's the thing. It's not a party trick. There's a rhyme and reason to it. Most self-working math tricks are a novelty, little more. Oh, they can be punched up and made interesting certainly. But they usually aren't. Or worse yet, they're accompanied by some corny story out of a 9th-rate Vaudeville show that only continues to exist for the same reason Family Circus does: because it makes octogenarians and absolutely no one else smile. And possibly also because there is no god, but that might just be me.

17. #17
A magician fooled Penn and Teller with a math trick.. on their show "Fool Us."