With a Wave of my Dry Erase Marker

So I’ve titled my blog mathemagics. Which is positively overflowing with creativity, I’m sure. Not to mention contradictory.

There’s a Far Side cartoon:

Like most mathematicians, this is a favorite cartoon of mine. And as far as most of my students are concerned, this is how every problem in class is solved.

It’s not, of course. There’s nothing magical about math. Well, okay, there is: it’s the only truly universal language. It’s always true. It’s dependable. It’s beautiful. But there’s nothing mysterious or hidden about it.

My students watch me on the white board (those who aren’t playing with their cellphones, at least) and, as far as they’re concerned, I’m doing the most mystifying trick they’ve ever seen. That x must have disappeared up my sleeve. Am I hiding a 3 inside my hat? And, wow, I just sawed that fraction in half only to put it back together again.

My dry erase marker conjures up more amazement than any wand ever has. Unlike stage magicians, though, I’m willing to explain my tricks to those who’ll listen.

So maybe math and magic do have things in common. If I ever come up with a way for a person to magically learn math without having to do any work, I’ll definitely let you know about it.

Don’t hold your breath.

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