Curiosity Club - Maths magic

Our second Curiosity Club of the summer was all about taking the fear factor out of maths and fostering a love for a subject that is all too often perceived by children as ‘too difficult’, ‘too boring’ or just plain abstract!

The focus of our session centred around having fun with maths whilst exploring concepts that promote discussion and the use of mathematical vocabulary. Talking about maths is so important in breaking down preconceptions and combatting the fear that is sometimes associated with getting it wrong.

Our session began by performing a ‘maths magic trick’ taken from the excellent NRICH website and debating the question “Is it maths or is it magic?”  Below is the ‘trick’ we explored.  It’s a great starting point for discussion about the mathematical processes involved in each step.

Try this 'trick' to amaze and impress your friends!

But the really clever trick is explaining to why this 'trick' is maths and not magic. Like all good magicians, you should practise. Can you explain how is works?

  • Think of a number.

  • Double it.

  • Add 10.

  • Halve it.

  • Take away your original number.

  • Is your answer 5?

Try this with a different starting number.

Did you get a different result? Why does this happen?
Write the answer on a piece of paper without letting anybody see it and seal it in an envelope. Have somebody hold the envelope and at the end ask them to open it and reveal the number you wrote at the beginning. Wow, Magic!

We also explored a variety of maths games, which in turn, inspired us to design and create our own. Each curious learner focused on a mathematical area of their choice, designing and developing their own board game to help practise a specific skill or area of maths that they wanted to improve.


Finally, we finished our session with some terrific tangram challenges. A tangram is a Chinese geometrical puzzle consisting of a square cut into seven pieces which can be arranged into various other shapes.  Tangrams help to develop spatial awareness, resilience, perseverance, cooperation and collaboration – crucial skills for being a determined and successful mathematician.


It was the perfect way to spend a summer’s afternoon and a real pleasure to be joined by such a great group of children.   It was even better to see their maths related fears begin to dissolve and their confidence and inquisitiveness towards the subject begin to emerge. They asked some brilliantly searching questions and I hope they found their inner mathe-magician and feel a little more determined to use phrases such as – “how can I help myself? or “it’s challenging me to learn and adapt!”  rather than “I don’t know what to do” or “it’s too hard.”

By Jennie Adams on 30th August 2017 

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