Jennifer Piggott and Steve Hewson write about an area of teaching and learning mathematics that has been engaging their interest recently. As they explain, the word 'trick' can be applied to mathematical activity in many ways.
In this article we discuss the role of 'tricks' in mathematics, that they can be either simply misleading or content or process driven and how they can provide positive or negative experiences for the learner. The more we have thought about this the more we are aware that we
have only scratched the surface of this issue, but we are sharing our early thoughts and hope it will elicit further discussion and refinement. Throughout we shall refer to mathematical content and mathematical process. You can think of the former as knowledge and the latter as skill.
In short, we want to explore the question: what is a mathematical trick and when are tricks good and when are they bad?