Magic Tricks and Tales

12th July 2013 at 01:00


Enchanting investigation

As the summer holidays approach, teachers will be looking for fun activities. Wave your wand - or marker pen - and make mathematics magical with this Harry Potter potion task.

Harry Potter has gone over to the Dark Side and created an evil potion to turn teachers into frogs. The key to the potion's success is the number of legs included from animals such as spiders, lizards and bats.

Challenge your students to work out as many ways as possible to create their potion. For example, it might require 64 legs, which would mean that they could use eight spiders (eight legs each), or four spiders and eight lizards (four legs each). Students will forget that they are using their multiplication and factors skills.

Record their findings in a table and conclude the investigation with some time for reflection.

Find the lesson at bit.lyharrypottermaths


Telling tails

Animal-obsessed children may have wondered what life would be like if they had been born with a tail - or how different fashions would be if everybody had one.

Now an interactive app, A Cautionary Tail (pictured above), tells the quirky story of a little girl born with a tail that expresses her emotions. The aim of the app is to help parents and teachers to bolster self-confidence and positive body image in young children and to reduce the bullying of those who appear to be a bit different.

Based on the award-winning short animation of the same name, voiced by Cate Blanchett, Barry Otto and David Wenham, the app from Australian company Rawr Media stars a child whose parents celebrate their daughter's unusual appendage.

Her tail also inspires exciting make-believe games with her friends. As she grows older, however, the young woman is bullied and rejected, and must choose between fitting in with the crowd and being true to herself.

For more, visit


- Can you believe your eyes? Test your students' perception skills in these optical illusion lesson starters from IBurchett. bit.lyvisual starters

- Encourage students to be kind and supportive in this lesson from Beatbullying. bit.lybullyproof shield


- Explore ancient mythology with JU3fromLeics' introduction to Greek gods. bit.lyGreeks OfOlympia

- Take Harry Potter-themed mathematics further in this magical lesson on ratios. bit.lyhpratios


Trick of the light

Staging scientific demonstrations as magic tricks can be an exciting experience for children - especially when they have to work out how you did it.

Try filling a large glass bowl with glycerin or cooking oil. Before the lesson, place a small test tube inside. The children won't be able to see the tube because the optical density (refractive index) of glass is similar to that of glycerin or cooking oil, so the light will bend (refract) very little when going from the oil to the test tube, rendering the test tube invisible.

While it is wrapped carefully in a cloth, smash an identical test tube with a hammer. This will be a shock, but reassure the children that you can make it whole again with a special magic fluid. Then throw the pieces of glass into the bowl.

Get your students to say a magic chant as you use a pair of tongs to remove the undamaged test tube from the oil, to the amazement of all. If this doesn't impress them, nothing will.

For more information on this and other show-stopping feats, see the selection of science magic tricks from TES Connect science adviser Alessio Bernardelli. bit.lyscienceismagic.

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