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Topic: Magic and teaching probability & statistics
Message: Posted by: glicko (Sep 9, 2009 01:05PM)
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 peer-review 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 pre-print (very slightly different from the version that will be published) at http://math.bu.edu/people/mg/research/Magic-Statistics-post.pdf . Thought some Café members might be interested.


- 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) 687-2875
fax: (781) 687-3106
Message: Posted by: TomasB (Sep 10, 2009 02:33AM)
Nice! That seems so much better than to use magic in religion class.

Message: Posted by: airship (Sep 10, 2009 10:57AM)
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! :)
Message: Posted by: lboudreau (Sep 10, 2009 01:22PM)
Bravo! Magic is an excellent way to engage student interest. I applaud your effort to make mathematics more accessible.
Message: Posted by: S2000magician (Sep 10, 2009 02:59PM)
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?
Message: Posted by: sean_mh (Sep 10, 2009 10:13PM)
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!!

Message: Posted by: tomboston (Sep 30, 2009 11:28AM)
I teach a high school Statistics class and am looking forward to reading about this!
Message: Posted by: Michael J. Douglas (Oct 2, 2009 12:07AM)
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:
Message: Posted by: barneyfife (Oct 4, 2009 04:53PM)
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.

Message: Posted by: johnmharris (Jan 12, 2010 11:59AM)
This looks great! Thanks for sharing it with us.
Message: Posted by: glicko (Jan 12, 2010 12:05PM)
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 265-274):

- Mark
Message: Posted by: RLFrame (Jan 13, 2010 10:29AM)
I heard a fellow on NPR a couple of years ago that co-wrote a stats textbook using magic-type tricks. Some pretty neat stuff.

Message: Posted by: glicko (Jan 13, 2010 10:43AM)
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
Message: Posted by: RLFrame (Jan 13, 2010 11:03AM)
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.
Message: Posted by: glicko (Jan 13, 2010 12:08PM)
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
Message: Posted by: TomasB (Jan 13, 2010 02:09PM)
I posed the coin tossing as a problem, expecting no one to solve it. You get no points for guessing who did.


Message: Posted by: amedica (Jan 13, 2010 03:30PM)
Very interesting paper, thnks for that
Message: Posted by: mralincoln (Jan 18, 2010 01:58AM)
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!
Message: Posted by: glicko (Feb 19, 2010 02:50PM)
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:


- Mark
Message: Posted by: IanL (Feb 26, 2010 01:43AM)
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.
Message: Posted by: Scott Cram (Feb 26, 2010 12:10PM)
Although it's not technically magic, demostrations of [url=http://revision3.com/scamschool/non_transitive_dice]non-transitive dice[/url] and [url=http://www.berare.com/news.php?nid=48]non-transitive coin flips[/url] would be an eye-popper.
Message: Posted by: maposner (Apr 12, 2010 11:36AM)
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).
Message: Posted by: insight (Apr 13, 2010 06:20PM)
This paper is a great read.

Message: Posted by: R.E. Byrnes (Mar 19, 2011 02:54PM)
"That seems so much better than to use magic in religion class."

both magic and religion are fake; seems like a good match
Message: Posted by: S2000magician (Mar 19, 2011 08:09PM)
[quote]On 2011-03-19 15:54, R.E. Byrnes wrote:
both magic and religion are fake . . . .[/quote]
Except, of course, when (at least) one of them isn't.
Message: Posted by: S2000magician (Mar 19, 2011 08:11PM)
[quote]On 2010-02-26 13:10, Scott Cram wrote:
. . . [url=http://revision3.com/scamschool/non_transitive_dice]non-transitive dice[/url] and [url=http://www.berare.com/news.php?nid=48]non-transitive coin flips[/url] . . . .[/quote]
I love these!