Magic tricks, the infinite, puzzles, and paradoxes. Chance, coincidence, dimension, and juggling. Music, games, the arts, and cryptography. Such are among the many facets illuminated by mathematics and its powers of deduction.This course is directed at students who may have limited exposure to mathematics, but remain curious and open to explore how reasoning about patterns, structure and quantity can help us see through card tricks and puzzles, and how the laws of math affect the world around us and our own trajectories in the every day. Due to the large variety of material that can be covered, choice of topics will in part be determined by the interests of the course participants. 

InstructorLarry Goldstein, larry at usc dot edu, KAP 406D, 213 740 2405. Office Hours: Monday 3:30-4:30, and by appointment KAP 406D

Lecture: MW 2:00-3:20


Diaconis and Graham: Magical Mathematics: The Mathematical Ideas That Animate Great Magic Tricks
Gamow: One, two, three, infinity (Chapters 1 and 2)

Abbott: Flatland, a romance of many dimensions

Mlodinow: The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives

Additional Readings of Interest:

  • The Code Book, Simon Singh
  • Fermat’s Enigma, Simon Singh
  • Euclid’s Window, Leonard Mlodinow
  • Weapons of Math Destruction, Cathy O’Neil
  • Godel’s Proof, Nagel and Newman

Exams and Grading Policy

Grading Policy

20% Course Participation and in class assignments

  • 20% Homework
  • 25% Midterm exam, Monday Feb 27th
  • 35% Final Project: each student will pick a topic to develop, prepare a writeup and make a class presentation.

Important Dates and Information

January 25rd: Quiz on readings from Gamow

last day to drop without mark of W: Feb 24th

last day to drop a class with mark of W: April 7th.

classes end: April 28th.

Full registration calendar

Statement of Academic Conduct