Choose any four consecutive even numbers. Multiply the two middle numbers together. Multiply the first and last numbers. Now subtract your second answer from the first. Try it with your own. . . .

32 x 38 = 30 x 40 + 2 x 8; 34 x 36 = 30 x 40 + 4 x 6; 56 x 54 = 50 x 60 + 6 x 4; 73 x 77 = 70 x 80 + 3 x 7 Verify and generalise if possible.

A little bit of algebra explains this 'magic'. Ask a friend to pick 3 consecutive numbers and to tell you a multiple of 3. Then ask them to add the four numbers and multiply by 67, and to tell you. . . .

Think of a number Multiply it by 3 Add 6 Take away your start number Divide by 2 Take away your number. (You have finished with 3!) HOW DOES THIS WORK?

Replace the letters with numbers to make the addition work out correctly. R E A D + T H I S = P A G E

Think of two whole numbers under 10, and follow the steps. I can work out both your numbers very quickly. How?

Think of a number, add one, double it, take away 3, add the number you first thought of, add 7, divide by 3 and take away the number you first thought of. You should now be left with 2. How do I. . . .

Here are three 'tricks' to amaze your friends. But the really clever trick is explaining to them why these 'tricks' are maths not magic. Like all good magicians, you should practice by trying. . . .

Write down a three-digit number Change the order of the digits to get a different number Find the difference between the two three digit numbers Follow the rest of the instructions then try. . . .

An AP rectangle is one whose area is numerically equal to its perimeter. If you are given the length of a side can you always find an AP rectangle with one side the given length?

Choose two digits and arrange them to make two double-digit numbers. Now add your double-digit numbers. Now add your single digit numbers. Divide your double-digit answer by your single-digit answer. . . .

Visitors to Earth from the distant planet of Zub-Zorna were amazed when they found out that when the digits in this multiplication were reversed, the answer was the same! Find a way to explain. . . .

According to Plutarch, the Greeks found all the rectangles with integer sides, whose areas are equal to their perimeters. Can you find them? What rectangular boxes, with integer sides, have. . . .

If you take a three by three square on a 1-10 addition square and multiply the diagonally opposite numbers together, what is the difference between these products. Why?

This is the first of a two part series of articles on the history of Algebra from about 2000 BCE to about 1000 CE.