“Abracadabra, hocus pocus, you will all form a quiet line!” I wave my wand, close my eyes, and count back from five to one. Then, I cautiously peek with one eye, then both eyes open in wonder as I look at the giggliest quiet line I have seen all day. The children realize, of course, that they are as much of the magic as the wand I waved, and we make our way down the hallway to their classroom in silence.

Magic is a very real part of young children’s reality. How often have I used that magic wand in my own ESL lessons? I cannot even count the ways. At a certain point, however, the children realize that the magic isn’t as real as it used to be. Santa Claus becomes a person in a costume, and the tooth fairy is really Mom or Dad. Does that mean that magic should leave the classroom?

Not in my opinion. At that moment, I change the aspect of magic from something they *experience*, to something they can *do*. In this case, I combine magic with maths and English in a card trick any 6-year-old can do, and it’s called “What’s my magic number?” Here’s how it works:

- Remove all Kings, Queens, and Jacks from the deck. Now, only the numbers are left (Aces count for ones).
- Shuffle the deck.
- A helper takes a single card from the deck and keeps it to himself (secretly!).
- Lay out the cards, one at a time. When you find two cards that make sums of ten, for instance, 9 and 1, or 8 and 2, cover these with new cards.
- When all of the cards have been laid out, pick up matching piles. “Matching piles” are piles in which the top cards make sums of ten.
- The remaining pile will be the “match” for the secret card. For instance, if the helper has a 4, then the last pile will be topped with a 6. If
*no*piles are left, then the missing card is a 10.

Harder version:

- Shuffle the deck.
- A helper takes a single card from the deck and keeps it to himself (secretly!).
- Lay out the cards, one at a time. When you find two cards that make sums of ten, for instance, 9 and 1, or 8 and 2, cover these with new cards. A set of King/Queen/Jack counts as a complete set, so cover these a set at a time.
- When all of the cards have been laid out, pick up matching piles. “Matching piles” are piles in which the top cards make sums of ten.
- The remaining pile will be the “match” for the secret card. For instance, if the helper has a 4, then the last pile will be topped with a 6. If
*no*piles are left, then the missing card is a 10. If two face cards are left, then the missing face card is the missing card. For instance, if you have only a Jack and a Queen left over, then the missing card is a King.

Challenge version (for instance, magic number is 13):

- Note: A Jack counts for 11, a Queen for 12, and a King for 13. Numbers count for their own value.

- Shuffle the deck.
- A helper takes a single card from the deck and keeps it to himself (secretly!).
- Lay out the cards, one at a time. When you find two cards that make sums of thirteen, for instance, Queen and 1, or Jack and 2, cover these with new cards. A King, being “thirteen”, can be covered whenever it shows up.
- When all of the cards have been laid out, pick up matching piles. “Matching piles” are piles in which the top cards make sums of thirteen.
- The remaining pile will be the “match” for the secret card. For instance, if the helper has a 4, then the last pile will be topped with a 9. If
*no*piles are left, then the missing card is a King.

There are other possibilities of course, which you can figure out by playing around with the cards on your own. For instance a magic number of 14 is easy enough (King and 1, Queen and 2, etc.), but it’s also possible to make magic numbers of 11 and 12 while using the entire deck.

And there you have it: a simple yet effective means of automating sums up to 10, in English, mixed with a spoonful of fun, and…

With this trick, you get children to practice their sums in English, making this the ideal CLIL lesson for young children who don’t yet speak lots of English.

Here’s an instruction video for the Easy version.

Great idea, I think I’ll give that a go next week. Often thought of using magic tricks in class, but don’t want to risk the sawing the box trick, just incase. Thanks for the tip!

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Glad you like the idea! I’ve added a short instruction film, in case you’re interested.

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Nice one, will take a butcher’s once my roast has gone down and I’ve had a kip!

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