Magic Math


This is a picture of my son. His eyes are bright. There is a half-smile on his face. He’s thinking about math. This didn’t used to happen.

I was playing a game of Magic: The Gathering with him tonight, when I started to become perturbed and pout like an angry 10 year old that he hadn’t put enough Mana in the deck I was using. (In Magic, you can build your own decks, which is a whole other lesson I may talk about in another post.) Mana are land cards you need to be able to DO ANYTHING in the game. I had pulled 2 Mana in 14 turns. I had a handful of destruction, and no means to use any of it. BRAHHH, frustration. Then, I calmed down and asked him, “how many Mana are in this deck?”

“Twenty-four,” he answered promptly. The experts suggest 25 Mana in a deck of 60. But this deck looked bigger.

“How many cards are in this deck, altogether?” I asked.

He hesitated. I counted. Seventy.

I honestly had to do the math myself to try to think of how many Mana should go into a deck of 70, if 25 go into a deck of 60. Maybe that is silly of me, but I don’t know exactly the number off the top of my head. So I showed my Water Boy how to do the math to figure out the answer.

It wasn’t easy math. There were algebraic functions, fractions, decimals and multiplication, division, subtraction…on and on the lesson seemed to go because every time I got to a new step of this (sort of) simple algebraic problem, I had to show him what I was doing and why. A lot of the work he had never seen before. He was intrigued. He did some of it for me. We ended up with the answer 28. We were 4 Mana short. He went upstairs to retrieve 4 Mana to make his pout-faced mother happy.

The game went on, and he eventually kicked my butt. As we were cleaning up, he had his own question. The card protectors are sold in packs of 50. Decks are supposed to be about 60. He said, “why don’t they just sell packs of 60 card protectors?” Then he grabbed the pencil and scratch paper and began to figure out, one step at a time, how much money a pack of 60 would cost, if a pack of 50 was $3.00. And he did it.

He asked me for reminders of the steps of short division (because there are a lot of steps!) and what to do when he got the answer of approximately $0.16 per card protector, but other than that, he did great figuring out (with no formal algebraic lesson) how to get to answer x.

All this about 10 minutes before his usual sleeping hour, and after a long day.

From now on, when people say to me, “but if you let them do what they want, wouldn’t they just play games all day?” I think I am just going to say, “yes.”


3 thoughts on “Magic Math

  1. Isn’t it the truth. When Luke came home from school, people used to ask did we worry, did we think we should have him tested. The truth is I did worry, compulsively and incessantly. He begged to go to school when we moved to MS. They said they would test him to place him in either 7th or 8th grade, and I really freaked out. I got him up at 6am on the morning of the test to go over geometry formulas, and algebra, and diagramming a sentence. I was certain I had failed him. Certain that I had been too lax, that he would test into probably 4th or 5th grade. So, it turns out that he tested as a graduating senior. They said he could be an 8th grader, but he really wanted to be in 7th grade. He lasted one week before withdrawing, because even he could not believe how much of his day went to mob management. Come visit us, we miss you, and we live on the Gulf of Mexico, and there’s a great wine store.

    1. Oh, Amy! Yes! We will come to visit you! Be in touch about where exactly you are, etc. I’m interested to know when/why you moved, and how to get to your front porch via wine store.

  2. “From now on, when people say to me, “but if you let them do what they want, wouldn’t they just play games all day?” I think I am just going to say, “yes.” <—- I love this quote! Great post, Christina.

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