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Showcasing Kelvin Chun nad "Mathemagic"

"I try to incorporate my experiences of the real world with the concepts I am teaching," Kelvin Chun told Education World. "Children are amazed by such hobbies as magic, balloons, and kites. I call those hobbies mathemagic, because they incorporate lots of hidden concepts and standards that children should know."

Mathemagic -- 1089

Only paper and a pencil are required to amaze students with one of Chun's favorite magic activities:

Write 1089 on a piece of paper and, without showing anyone, fold the paper and place it on a table in plain view. Give each student a piece of paper and a pencil and have students:
* Write in the middle of the paper any three-digit number containing three different numerals. (For example, not 111 or 202 or 330 because the same numeral is used more than once.)
* Reverse that number.
* If the reversed number is larger than the original number, write the second number above the first. If the second number is smaller, write it below the first number.
* Subtract the smaller number from the larger number.
* If the difference has only two digits, write a zero in front of those two digits to create a 3-digit number.
* Reverse that number and write it below the bottom number.
* Add the bottom two numbers.

Unfold and display the number you wrote down earlier. Ask students if their answers -- all their answers! -- are 1089!

As a technology coordinator/resource teacher at Nuuanu Elementary School in Honolulu, Hawaii, Chun assists staff members in the effective use of all facets of technology to enhance the curriculum. He also uses his personal interests, such as magic, balloon creations and kite making, to capture the interest and imagination of students.

A secondary math teacher for many years, Chun has explored hobbies that incorporate mathematics, and has taken part in an adult education course in magic. He also has joined the local magicians club, and nowadays when hes away from school, Chun is a performing magician with magician friends around the world!

According to Chun, magic, balloon sculptures, and kite making address concepts related to many standards students must master, including problem solving, reasoning, geometric relationships, measurements, symmetry, spatial reasoning, communication, and more. They also reinforce understanding of science and skill in fine arts.

"I share the art of magic at the end of each computer class period," Chun explained. "I share short video clips of magical performances from around the world. I tell students that I also am a magician who travels around the world to magic conventions and performances. Magic is a universal performing art. You see magic in all cultures. I use balloons as prizes and explain to students some geometric properties of balloons."

Kite making and kite flying have been Chun's passions since childhood. As a boy, he started flying with a "ten-cent kite," and admired how the simple structure could fly with the wind.

"My interest was piqued when I saw a master kite maker, the late Patricio Gongob," recalled Chun. "He lived on my street, and he made and flew the perfect, well-balanced kite. His kite flew without a tail and hovered vertically, almost perpendicular to the ground. At times, it would act like a glider in the air because there was no wind force pushing against it. It glided above!"

Gongob, who passed away at the age of 83 in the early 1990s, had emigrated from the Philippines to Hawaii. Kites were invented by the Chinese and brought to the Philippines by merchants. Ironically, a Filipino shared the art of kite making with Chun, a man of Chinese descent.

Teacher/magician Kelvin Chun brings magic to the classroom.

When he started teaching mathematics, Chun recalled Gongob's handmade kites that flew more gracefully than "store-bought" ones, and he realized that kite making would be an imaginative way to impart math and science concepts to his students. He received a grant to study this art, and now he feels that the craft has come "full circle."

"Technology is all around us," observed Chun. "It's not magic that makes the technology; it is mathematics and science that cause the technology to work. We take many things for granted, like riding in a car or an airplane. Look at the mathematics and science concepts in airplane construction. It takes hours to develop a simple kite that flies. Imagine the tons of weight an airplane can carry and the number of lives that would be at risk if the airplane were not designed right!"


Chun unlocks the magic of technology with Nuuanu students.


As a part of his school-related projects, Chun manages the Nuuanu Technology Service Club, a technology club that participates in activities designed to serve the technological needs of Nuuanu Elementary School. Those activities include learning about and creating a Web page, and learning about video production, multimedia, and telecommunications. Club members troubleshoot and maintain school technologies and assist in the school-wide effort of training technology users.

"As the knowledge of utilizing technology spreads throughout the school culture, learning becomes simpler and more self-motivating," Chun said. "Our students gather data, analyze and evaluate information, and communicate locally, nationally, and internationally in a technology-enriched environment with people of all ages. It is my vision that they will learn and team together as part of our school community of learners and become our trainers and our leaders."

Project photos provided by Kelvin Chun.
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If you're a teacher who has completed an interesting or unusual activity with your class -- or if you know of a teacher who has -- please let us know about it. E-mail a brief description of the activity, along with your contact information, to [email protected]

Article by Cara Bafile
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