The domain where I've had the the most — what you might call — formal academic training is mathematics. Having spent years tutoring students in math (which means, by implication you're spending time with students who are less adept than the average at math) I understand that there is a definite peculiarity in the way people approach problems in math. Ordinary thinking involves guessing an answer — taking a shot in the dark — then trying to justify the guess as quickly as possible so you can move on to new problems. This manifests with students prepping for multiple choice tests saying something like, *"It's B, isn't it?"*. And if I nod *yes*, they're right and they get to go onto the next question. But, as happens more often, I don't nod and that guess hasn't brought them any closer to a solution to the problem.

Math involves stepping back and looking at the problem from many different angles. It seems extraordinarily counter-intuitive if your goal is simply to get the pencil mark in the bubble for B.

**Professor Persi Diaconis**, in addition to being a professor of statistics, is also a world renowned magician, so when his work pops up in my news feed, I perk up. This is a wonderful example of the application of mathematical thinking to a very mundane problem. I guess the typical reaction to be a transition from *this guy's so weird* to *this guy's so freakin' smart*.