Mathemagical card tricks

by Bernie DeKoven on May 16, 2011

I’m going to ask you a question. A genuine question. A pertinent question.

Do you believe in magic?

Do you, by any chance, suddenly find yourself wanting to sing?

That’s magic too, in a way, so to speak, how, if you know the song, and you see the words, you can’t quite help yourself hear them being sung. How they just get called up like that, like magic.

Most magic is about belief, or, at least, half-belief (like the fun of pretending that there really is a Santa Claus, or that you’re being chased home by a wolf, or of riding a roller coaster and making yourself more scared than you need to be).

It’s fun to be fooled – when you want to be.

A lot of magic relies on what they call the “art of illusion,” or “sleight-of-hand.” Or at least a lot of practice. Like most card tricks, and, yes, like Knibbling – which is what prompted this post.

I received an email from someone who loved the idea of Knibbling and wanted to perform it for some kids – but found it a little too challenging to master. She saw it as a kind of magic act. Which, in a way, it is. And, in another way, isn’t – like all magic. In answering her query, I was reminded of something called “mathematical card tricks.”

Mathematical card tricks rely not on neither illusion nor sleight of hand nor actually any skill at all, but on the mathematical properties of a deck of cards – mathematical properties, you know, how half are red and half black, how there are odd and even cards, and 4 suits and 13 cards in each.

In scanning the web for examples of this kind of trick (a very unique kind of trick, which is often as amazing to the performer as it is to the audience), I found one site which proved to be exemplary. Called The Card Trick Teacher, it features a collection of more than 25 videos, each, clearly and patiently instructing you on how each trick works. Again, these tricks are not illusions. And not really tricks. But they are as magical and as tricky as mathematics itself.

Here’s one of the easiest to learn. It’s called the Amazing Nine Card Math Trick.


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