Protecting against magic

Yesterday, Zoe and I were playing a game of Bingo.  In this version, there are cards with the pictures and names of the items (all related to the ocean) and you flip them over one by one to figure out which spots to cover on your board.

The cards were all in a pile facing down and Zoe would pick them up one at a time and without showing me have me guess what was on it.  I had to find the correct item on one of our boards (or say that it wasn’t on either of them).

The first time that I pointed to the correct item, Zoe looked quite surprised and said, “yes, how did you guess?”  Well, one time can be a coincidence, right?  But then she did it several more times and for every one of them I guessed correctly what was on the card.  Now Zoe was very intrigued.

What Zoe didn’t realize, is that the names of the items (along with their descriptions) were written on the backs of the cards.  So even though I couldn’t see the picture, I could still identify the item based on the name.

I told Zoe that I could see through the card and tell what was on the other side of it.  Zoe seemed a bit skeptical, but finding no other explanation she bought into this one.

To correct for this phenomenon, Zoe began picking up the cards in such a way as to cover the back of the card right away and keep it covered until I made a guess.  But this didn’t seem to change much – I still guessed all of them correctly.

How? The back of the card would become visible as soon as she’d pick up the previous one, so I had plenty of time to see it before she picked up the card.

But Zoe was not ready to give up.  She put the whole pile of cards behind her and started pulling the cards out from the middle of the deck.  She would then look at the card and put it face down on the floor behind her back.

I thought that this was quite clever of her (especially the part of taking the card out of the middle), but the problem was in the mechanics.  The way she’d leave the card lying behind her, I could still see what was written on the back.

Finally, Zoe resorted to desperate measures – she made me close my eyes while she was selecting the card and would hold it in such a way that I couldn’t see any part of it when I opened them back up.

I was beaten and my magic powers of guessing the item disappeared.  Later she took pity on me and would give me clues about the item, which turned it into a totally different game entirely.

Zoe never figured out how I was magically guessing what was on her cards but I was impressed with her persistence to figure out a way to prevent me from doing it.

I think that one day, perhaps several years from now, Zoe will be playing or looking through the game and have a great revelation.  But I don’t mind if she thinks that I have magic powers for just a little while longer.


About aofradkin

I enjoy thinking about presenting mathematical concepts to young children in exciting and engaging ways.
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1 Response to Protecting against magic

  1. goldenoj says:

    That is a math teacher mom: “how can I make this a problem?” Love Zoe’s persistence and solution.


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