Arthur Benjamin — a “mathemagician” who has been featured on TED Talks and The Colbert Report — will return to Youngstown State University on Feb. 19 to perform his mathemagics show in Kilcawley Center’s Chestnut room.
“This show is for math lovers who want to see some cool new tricks and math haters who are wondering how the words ‘math’ and ‘cool’ could ever be used in the same sentence!” Benjamin said.
Though deemed a mathemagics act, Benjamin’s show does not feature much magic or trickery.
“I would say 90 percent of my show is authentic mental math, including lightning fast mental multiplication and determining the day of the week of anyone’s birthday or historical date,” he said.
Though he is not the typical magician, Benjamin’s whimsical showmanship makes his act magical.
“The real ‘magic’ comes from my general approach to presenting the material to my audience,” Benjamin said. “Before I ever performed mental math or taught a class, I would perform traditional magic shows…where I learned how to keep an audience of children and adults entertained.”
Benjamin now works as a professor of mathematics at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, Ca., but he grew up performing magic in the Cleveland area.
“I still have family in the Cleveland area, and I have always been treated so well by the students and faculty at YSU,” he said. “YSU has one of the best programs in the country for getting its undergraduates engaged in mathematical research. They always have an impressive group of students presenting their research at the summer math meetings.”
Benjamin last performed at YSU in 2010. Thomas Wakefield, associate professor in the Mathematics and Statistics Department, said he was impressed by Benjamin’s performance and encouraged students to attend this year’s event.
“It was amazing. It was great. It was standing room only and I mean he got the crowd so excited about math,” he said. “[Students] won’t be disappointed. He’s a really talented mathemagician. … You know, he’s nationally known so it’s pretty cool to attend the lecture of someone who has been on The Colbert Report and who has done a really famous Ted Talk.”
Martin Abraham, dean of the College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, agreed with Wakefield and called Benjamin’s show “an amazing feat.”
“It is phenomenal the types of things that he does. The way he makes these complicated, complicated mathematical calculations. You can sit down on a calculator; he will beat you. He can do it faster. It is amazing the way he does this stuff,” Abraham said.
Wakefield concluded that Benjamin’s mathemagics show will benefit the Youngstown area.
“I think it’s very important for YSU to hold these kinds of events. I think of YSU as being really a kind of anchor in this community. In some respect, I think it’s our responsibility to the community which has been so good to us by providing us with students and resources that we provide back through events that educate, that excite and get people excited about learning,” Wakefield said.
Benjamin’s show will begin at 3:15 p.m., and is free and open to the public.