Mathematics Awareness Month 2014: Mathematics, Magic, and Mystery

From magic squares and Möbius bands to magical card tricks and illusions, mysterious phenomena with elegant “Aha!” explanations have permeated mathematics for centuries. Such brain-teasing challenges promote creative and rational thinking, attract a wide range of people to the subject, and often inspire serious mathematical research.

The theme of Mathematics Awareness Month 2014 echoes the title of a 1956 book by renowned math popularizer Martin Gardner, whose extensive writings introduced the public to hexaflexagons, polyominoes, John Conway’s “Game of Life,” Penrose tiles, the Mandelbrot set, and much more. For more than half a century Gardner inspired enthusiasts of all ages to engage deeply with mathematics, and many of his readers chose to pursue it as a career. The year 2014 marks the centennial of Gardner’s birth.

Activity Calendar

Here you see 30 images, each representing a daily topic associated with this year's theme of Mathematics, Magic, and Mystery. Click on today’s topic or any of the previous ones to see that day’s video and activity.

Visit each day in April as we reveal a new topic for that day. Prior days will remain on view, but the future will retain its mystery. You can either bookmark this page or follow on Twitter to link to each new activity. Follow @MathAware

Listen! Martin Gardner, Genius Of Recreational Mathematics, on NPR’s Weekend Edition, April 12, 2014.

Mathematics, Magic, and Mystery Revealed!

Each topic is introduced with a short video where you can witness a mysterious or magical effect. Each page also includes activities for engaging with the underlying mathematical ideas at a variety of levels, with challenge questions, written explanations, and references. We hope you enjoy these activities, share them with friends and family, and return often to experience your personal "Aha!" moments. 

Contributors to the calendar include professional mathematicians and magicians of the highest caliber. Mathematics departments at the secondary and college levels will find a month full of interesting activities to use in their programs.

Poster credits