(Close Window) 
Topic: Magic and teaching probability & statistics 


Hi all, My colleague Larry Lesser (Univ of Texas, El Paso) and I have just completed a paper on incorporating magic tricks in probability and statistics classes. The paper went through the peerreview process and has been accepted for publication in "Model Assisted Statistics and Applications" most likely to appear in the December 2009 issue. You can grab a preprint (very slightly different from the version that will be published) at http://math.bu.edu/people/mg/research/MagicStatisticspost.pdf . Thought some Café members might be interested. Enjoy!  Mark Glickman  Prof. Mark E. Glickman Center for Health Quality, Outcomes & Economics Research Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Hospital (152), Bldg 70 200 Springs Road Bedford, MA 01730 tel: (781) 6872875 fax: (781) 6873106 http://math.bu.edu/people/mg 


Nice! That seems so much better than to use magic in religion class. /Tomas 


Excellent! I work in the Research Dept. at ACT (American College Testing) and am surrounded by people who have their PhDs in Statistics or Psychometrics. I can't wait to try some of these with them! :) 


Bravo! Magic is an excellent way to engage student interest. I applaud your effort to make mathematics more accessible. 


Very cool! I've used magic in various classes I've taught; e.g., I open my course in cash flow analysis with a [b][i]coins across[/i][/b] routine. And in every math class I've taught, the last day of class is always the same: review for the final exam and magic show. (I figure that if they've put up with me for an entire semester of calculus or linear algebra or differential equations or whatever, they've earned it.) I had one student who told me that he would have dropped my course in linear algebra and differential equations, but stuck it out (and earned a C, by the way) just so that he could see the show on the last day. Whatever motivates 'em, eh? 


I am a statistician as well, and use magic (cards mostly) as demonstrations in all the classes I teach in high school and univ. Yes, magic certainly does bring 'em in!! Sean 


I teach a high school Statistics class and am looking forward to reading about this! 


I don't know what all those number meant, but it was an interesting read. I can certainly see how those effects would be effective in teaching probability and stats. :nod: 


I am a high school math teacher and have used magic to show probability. I love the whole article and can't wait to incorporate these effects in the classroom. Barney 


This looks great! Thanks for sharing it with us. 


Thanks to everyone for the complimentary comments. The paper has now been published, though it can only be accessed with a journal subscription. Here's the web site for the journal issue in which the paper appears (see pages 265274): http://iospress.metapress.com/content/xmxu0g576051/  Mark 


I heard a fellow on NPR a couple of years ago that cowrote a stats textbook using magictype tricks. Some pretty neat stuff. http://www.amazon.com/TeachingStatisticsTricksAndrewGelman/dp/0198572247 


I believe Gelman's book is more a set of demos for statistics lectures not really connected to magic. Still, a very fun book with instructive demos.  Mark 


The one demo that he talked about in the interview was in sending two groups of students out of the room into separate locations. One group had a coin, the other did not. The group with the coin was decided AFTER they left the room so that no one in the room knew who had the coin. One group was to flip the coin a number of times and record the results. The other group pretended to flip the coin, and recorded the 'results' of these imaginary flips. When they returned and showed their results, the teacher immediately knew which group had the real coin. 


Yes, that's one of the demos that can be couched as a magic trick, and it relies on people's misperception of randomness in binary sequences. It's a very clever idea.  Mark 


I posed the coin tossing as a problem, expecting no one to solve it. You get no points for guessing who did. http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewtopic.php?topic=130638&forum=101 /Tomas 


Very interesting paper, thnks for that 


Just clicked the link and downloaded the paper for later reading. Thanks so much for posting it and for thinking of those of us on the Magic Café! 


Not to continue this thread indefinitely, but I thought I'd mention that the editor of the journal that published our paper on magic demos in the statistics classroom has decided to make the article (and the entire issue, which is on statistics pedagogy) publicly accessible on the journal's website. For a fresh copy, check out: http://iospress.metapress.com/content/j730w4777h667125/fulltext.pdf Thanks.  Mark 


What about Out of This World for probability? Clearly, on each attempt to separate black from red, you should have a 50/50 chance. The odds of being correct become slimmer and slimmer with each card. 


Although it's not technically magic, demostrations of [url=http://revision3.com/scamschool/non_transitive_dice]nontransitive dice[/url] and [url=http://www.berare.com/news.php?nid=48]nontransitive coin flips[/url] would be an eyepopper. 


Yes, Out of This World is a great trick! For those who don't know it, in short, the students/victims guess the color of 20 or so cards, and, in the end get each one right. I use it frequently in my classroom. I also use a modification (shown to me by Larry A. Smith), where they get one wrong, allowing the use of a binomial formula rather than simple independence calculations. I presented on this at the US Conference on Teaching Statistics in 2007 and was invited back to present it in 2009. Some details on the statistics behind it can be found on my website at http://www07.homepage.villanova.edu/michael.posner/files/Magic%20of%20Statistics.pdf The students really do appreciate the trick and I refer to it often when talking about hypothesis testing. You can find a version of it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCWxSDeGR1I (Thanks to Larry Lesser for the Youtube link  my shtick is slightly different, but the crux of the trick is the same). 


This paper is a great read. Regards, Mike 


"That seems so much better than to use magic in religion class." both magic and religion are fake; seems like a good match 


[quote]On 20110319 15:54, R.E. Byrnes wrote: both magic and religion are fake . . . .[/quote] Except, of course, when (at least) one of them isn't. 


[quote]On 20100226 13:10, Scott Cram wrote: . . . [url=http://revision3.com/scamschool/non_transitive_dice]nontransitive dice[/url] and [url=http://www.berare.com/news.php?nid=48]nontransitive coin flips[/url] . . . .[/quote] I love these! 