In Bradley Fields’ world, math is magical.
Now, some of you may be shying away at the moment, and it’s understandable. Math, many times, isn’t the most popular subject among elementary, middle school and high school students.
And that’s exactly what inspired Fields to develop his show, MatheMagic!.
Fields is a magician, but he took a year off from performing at one point to teach elementary school. That’s when he was faced with the task of teaching math.
“I taught a lot of subjects, but math was difficult,” Fields said. “I began thinking about how I could make math exciting.”
Well, Baton Rouge area audiences will be able to see Fields’ answer to this question when he brings MatheMagic! to the LSU Union Theater at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3. The program is the first in the theater’s 2012-13 Family Hour Series.
Fields also will be presenting two performances earlier in the day for school classes. The performances are funded by a grant from South Arts as part of a new series dedicated to educational outreach for children in the East Baton Rouge Parish School System’s 11 area public schools.
“The jokes I’ll make for the school groups will be a little different from those I’ll be making for the evening performance,” Fields said.
Oh, don’t worry. The show is completely family oriented, so there is no off-color material.
“But I know adults will be at the evening performance, so some of the jokes are designed for them,” Fields said. “I want everyone to have fun at the show.”
This was another challenge for Fields in developing MatheMagic!. True, he had taught elementary aged kids, but children of all ages would be attending his shows. Adults, too.
“So, how do I get 1,000 kids in a theater on the same page?” Fields asked.
He spoke from his home in Washington, D.C.
“I do it with integrated learning,” Fields said.
Fields not only is a magician and educator, but on stage he becomes a comedian, as well as an actor. He uses history, storytelling and magic to tell the story of math.
Yes, math has a story. It involves not only numbers but historical figures, different civilizations and ancient cultures.
Fields’ longtime magician’s assistant, Brenda Hattingh, is traveling from her home in Utah for his Baton Rouge performance. At one point in the show, he will “divide” her into thirds and use his magic to predict the numbers the members of the audience are thinking.
The audience also will travel 5,000 years back in time as Fields recreates the story of Imhotep, the ancient Egyptian magician, whose powerful secret was really math. And amidst the magic and theater, the children practice math skills and problem solving.
They also will learn how to perform tricks of their own, directly putting these new math skills to practical use.
“And I present math in an interesting way,” Fields said. “Out of 1,000 kids, almost all of them will enjoy the show, but it will be life changing for one or two of them.”
And that’s what it’s all about in the end, making a difference in people’s lives. Fields has heard from some of these students along the way.
For instance, he received an email from the chairwoman of the math department at a school in Long Island, N.Y. She had seen Fields’ show during her school years, and it made such an impression on her that she wanted her students to see it.
“She invited me to her school to do a program,” he said.
And then there was the young coed who spotted Fields on the Yale University campus. He was on campus for a program.
The girl told Fields that she, too, saw his program during her school years and it had made an impression on her.
“The adults who are attending with their kids like it because their kids are learning, but the adults learn stuff, too,” Fields said. “The show doesn’t really change. I’ve found that what I do works, so I leave it alone.”
So, get ready for a night of stories, time traveling and wonder.
In Fields’ magical world of math.