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EASIER THAN YOU THINK...

Magic Squares

A closeup of the magic square from Albrecht Durer's famous engraving, MelancholiaA 3 by 3 magic square with the numbers on each row, column and diagonal adding to 15Almost from the time that people added numbers, someone would have noticed a curious pattern … that 1 + 9 = 2 + 8 = 3 + 7 = 4 + 6.  As one number grows, the other decreases by the same amount, so the total remains constant.  It would not have taken long before similar sums were drawn across each other, for example, 9 + 5 + 1 vertically and 3 + 5 + 7 horizontally, sharing the five (see the square to the right).  From this it would be a short step to a pattern with a fascinating property: a magic square, like the one at right, in which the totals of all columns and rows and both diagonals are the same.

This page will explore these patterns and why they ‘work.’  We will examine different ways of designing such squares, and the surprising variety among those that exist.  We will construct squares of increasing size and ask ourselves whether there is a limit to their size.  We will see squares that are built from prime numbers, others that look the same when rotated 180°, and magic squares with other strange properties.

We will also learn some of the history of these fascinating squares and how Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) managed to construct a magic square for his engraving, Melancholia, in which the middle numbers at the bottom give 1514, the year of the engraving!

Our daughter was tutored by Graeme as she was required to sit a maths exam, and complete a maths course, in order to attend college in the USA. Graeme came highly recommended as a brilliant tutor, and he definitely did not disappoint. As a parent of three adult children, I have accessed several tutors over the years, and none of them have come even close to being as helpful and skilful as Graeme. Our daughter, Michaela, particularly liked how Graeme could relate maths concepts to everyday situations, something that helped her immensely. Graeme has extensive knowledge in various areas of maths, and this knowledge combined with his patient, empathic manner, makes him the outstanding tutor that he is. Graeme went above and beyond what would be expected of a tutor. He was truly dedicated to our daughter’s learning and she could not have achieved her goals without him.
Gillian Q (parent, 2013)

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