Math and Magic

Rated 1 out of 5 by from Product was defective. I cannot say more as the disks would not run!!
Date published: 2020-06-13
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Very entertaining, a little short on math Dr. Benjamin is a treasure, and I could watch his videos all day. This is my second course featuring Dr. Benjamin. I was expecting to learn a bit more about the connections between math and magic. Too much emphasis on presentation. If that's what you are after, you will enjoy this a bit more than I did. Still, not sorry I purchased this one.
Date published: 2020-06-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Triple Amazing Professor Benjamin's "Math and Magic" course was very enjoyable three times over: the first time was watching him perform the tricks, the second time was understanding the secrets he explained, and the third time was being able to do the tricks myself. It would have been a grand slam if I had enough confidence in my own showmanship skills to do the tricks in front of an audience, but that's probably a matter of time and practice and is certainly no fault of the course. The guidebook was indispensable for me. There were only a handful of minor typographical errors (pages 1, 34, 49, 54....?) and maybe a couple in the "Exercise Solutions" section: 1. Lesson 1, exercise 2, step 1 (page 126): I think the last "b" in "bcdabcdab" should be omitted (there's only 8 cards in play), and 2. Lesson 9, exercise 1, paragraph e (page 132): I believe the second sentence (beginning with "Hence") should end with "8?9" rather than "8?8". Thanks for another great series of lectures from brilliant and talented Professor Benjamin!
Date published: 2020-05-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A fun course This is a good course for those who want to learn a few card (and other) tricks and is also great if you want to understand the fun side of mathematics. The professor is entertaining and easy to understand.
Date published: 2020-05-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating and fun! I've enjoyed Professor Benjamin's courses before. I've passed the lessons in this course on to my grandson with great success.
Date published: 2020-04-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fun and Interesting I'm home schooling my grand-daughter. In addition to the normal school topics, I wanted something to entertain and educate her at the same time. This course is accomplishing that! The Professor teaches us the trick, then explains the math behind it. Couldn't be better. I sent a video to her teacher and whole class, with her performing a flawless 9 card trick. Everyone loved it. Her and I were both excited. BTW - she's in 2nd grade! Great course for everyone while staying home.
Date published: 2020-04-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Even for Non- Math Majors I was hoping to not need a degree in linear algebra to be able to understand how card tricks are done and this course did not disappoint.
Date published: 2020-04-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely Amazing! Although I have only seen the first two of the 12 programs in this course so far, I am totally amazed and very satisfied with it! The tricks are amazing, they're not hard to do, in the math that backs them up is simply incredible. This already is money well spent, and I still have ten programs to go. Thanks!
Date published: 2020-04-19
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Math and Magic
Course Trailer
Mathematical Card Tricks
1: Mathematical Card Tricks

Begin the course with card tricks in which mathematics is clearly being used, but the secret is not easy to figure out. Learn the invariant principle: Some qualities stay the same in a deck even though the order of cards is changing. End with what Professor Benjamin calls the “tear-able” trick, being careful to use cards that you don’t mind wrecking.

30 min
What’s Your Deal?
2: What’s Your Deal?

Explore card tricks in which the cards are shuffled, dealt, and flipped over in interesting ways, leading to surprising outcomes. Discover Hummer’s principle—an endless source of mystifying, crowd-pleasing tricks, based on random mixing of cards combined with a simple procedure that preserves a pattern that seems positively magical.

36 min
Look like a Card Shark
3: Look like a Card Shark

Professor Benjamin shows how to play cards like someone who would be thrown out of a casino. Learn the Jonah principle for always winning at poker. Get a “feel” for counting cards and develop the knack for telepathically communicating a hidden card to an assistant. Finally, who could claim to be a card shark without a trick that turns up four aces every time?

40 min
The Deck Is Stacked
4: The Deck Is Stacked

Investigate tricks based on the cyclic method of card ordering, or “stacking,” popularized by magician Si Stebbins and tracing originally to one of the first books on magic, published in Italy in 1593. Learn how to seemingly weigh a deck of cards in your hands and other miraculous feats based on this simple principle.

25 min
Perfect Shuffles
5: Perfect Shuffles

Professor Benjamin introduces a special guest, mathematician and magician Brent Morris, master of the perfect shuffle (also known as the faro shuffle), in which two equal halves of the deck are interlaced perfectly. You will learn two versions of this virtuoso technique—the in-shuffle and out-shuffle—along with sequences of shuffles that lead to very interesting symmetries.

30 min
Riffle Shuffles
6: Riffle Shuffles

Explore results of an ordinary riffle shuffle, where the deck is cut roughly in half, and the cards are interlaced approximately—but usually not perfectly. Depending on how the cards are arranged beforehand, intriguing effects are possible, based on Gilbreath’s principle of patterned sequences. Study several of these magic showpieces.

32 min
Magic with Numbers
7: Magic with Numbers

Master an impressive medley of number-guessing tricks, involving the golden ratio, the Fibonacci series, and other notable numbers. In analyzing how the tricks work, discover how straightforward algebraic expressions are secretly pulling the strings. The feats include the very first mathematical magic trick that Professor Benjamin learned.

35 min
Look like a Genius
8: Look like a Genius

You don’t have to be a genius to look like one. Drawing on young volunteers, Professor Benjamin shows easy strategies for mentally multiplying numbers by 11, dividing numbers by 91, multiplying any numbers near 100, squaring numbers ending in 5, and other seemingly fearless feats of arithmetic, without use of a calculator.

32 min
The Magic of Nine
9: The Magic of Nine

Admire the magic of the number nine. An ancient technique called “casting out nines” lets you pick out the missing digit in a bewilderingly long series of operations. Then learn to determine two-digit cube roots and also find the age of a volunteer who has hidden the number in a complicated calculation—all with the help of the number nine.

34 min
Look like a Psychic
10: Look like a Psychic

Hone your psychic powers by developing tricks such as these: Have someone scramble their birthday in a seemingly unbreakable code, which you decipher with ease. Calculate the hidden spots on a stack of dice. Use the parity principle to guess where your partner has landed in an alphabetic array. Also learn the magician’s “toxic” calculation principle.

28 min
Geometric and Topological Magic
11: Geometric and Topological Magic

Explore mathematical mysteries that seem geometrically or topologically odd. Consider a paper strip with a half twist, joined end-to-end, known as a Möbius band. What happens when there are more twists or if the shape is cut? Create an analogous shape by slicing a bagel. Also, solve puzzles with disappearing figures, including a rabbit.

31 min
Magic Squares
12: Magic Squares

Since ancient times, magic squares have given endless hours of fun through designing grids of numbers where each row, column, and diagonal produces the same sum—as if by magic. In this last lesson, learn to create magic squares quickly from numbers provided by your amazed audience or based on your volunteer’s birthday. Finally, end the course with a magic matrix based on the number pi.

37 min
Arthur T. Benjamin

As a professor, I have always wanted to bring math to the masses. The Great Courses has helped make that dream come true.


Johns Hopkins University


Harvey Mudd College

About Arthur T. Benjamin

Dr. Arthur T. Benjamin is Professor of Mathematics at Harvey Mudd College. He earned a Ph.D. in Mathematical Sciences from Johns Hopkins University in 1989. Professor Benjamin's teaching has been honored repeatedly by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA). In 2000, he received the MAA Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo National Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics. The MAA also named Professor Benjamin the 2006-2008 George Pólya Lecturer. In 2012, Princeton Review profiled him in The Best 300 Professors. He is a professional magician, whose techniques are explained in his book Secrets of Mental Math: The Mathemagician's Guide to Lightning Calculation and Amazing Math Tricks. Professor Benjamin also served for five years as coeditor of Math Horizons magazine. An avid games player, Dr. Benjamin is a past winner of the American Backgammon Tour and has written more than 15 papers on the mathematics of games and puzzles. Professor Benjamin has appeared on dozens of television and radio programs and has been featured in publications, including Scientific American, People, and The New York Times. In 2005, Reader's Digest called him America's Best Math Whiz.

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