Tag Archives: assemblies

Mathemagic – The Perfect Combination

In an Amazing Assembly, Math Professor Squares Everything but the Circle

Arthur Benjamin, also known as the Mathemagician, mesmerized students at assembly this fall by being faster than a calculator.

by Bea Feichtenbiner ‘19

Have you ever been sitting in math class and your mouth just dropped open because you were so astounded by what you just heard? To be honest, this probably happens to me two or three times a week. And if it hasn’t happened to you, just wait. It will.

In fact, it might have happened a couple of times in assembly on Friday, October 27. That’s when Arthur Benjamin, a math professor at Harvey Mudd College and a total math savant, performed some really cool tricks.

Professor Benjamin has performed on the Today Show, CNN, The Colbert Report, and National Public Radio. He has been interviewed and written about in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Scientific American, Discover, OMNI, Esquire, Wired, People Magazine, and Reader’s Digest. He has given three Ted Talks with some enticing titles: “A Performance Of ‘Mathemagic’,” “Teach Statistics Before Calculus!” and “The Magic Of Fibonacci Numbers.” He’s also authored or co-authored a number of books on the art of mental magic if anyone wants to advance their math skills, as I probably should.

Professor Benjamin began his George School performance by squaring two-digit numbers faster than audience members could type them into their calculators. Then he squared three-digit and four-digit numbers. For his finale, he squared a five-digit number.

Mind you, he did all this in his head.

I can’t even subtract two-digit numbers in my head, and this man squared a five-digit number!

That’s a nine-digit answer!

Who can keep track of that many numbers—in sequence—in their head? Professor Benjamin’s mental math skills were astounding.

Having warmed up with squaring three- and four-digit numbers, he took one of the squares and had a panel of five people multiply it on their calculators by any three-digit numbers they could think of. That was 499 possibilities, mind you. Then he had the panel read out their answers in any order. From just that information, he could tell the audience the last digit in each sequence.

Max Malavsky ’18, one of Professor Benjamin’s onstage “guinea pigs,” remarked, “that’s crazy” when the professor got the last digit of Max’s answer right. Max certainly spoke for all of us.

But that wasn’t all.

The mentally prestidigitatorial professor made a magic square that featured junior Jenny McArthur’s lucky number forty-three (the number that her date of birth added up to) in almost every arrangement of four blocks you could think of. I was sitting in the front row as he started explaining the magic square. I turned to Camille Drury ’19, who was sitting next to me, and remarked, “It’s everywhere.”

I meant Jenny’s number, of course, and it really was. The rows, columns, diagonals, corners, and two by two boxes all added up to forty-three.

It was spectacular.

Professor Benjamin’s second-to-last trick, right before his finale, seemed to have little to do with math. He was able to tell audience members the day of the week they were born on from the date of their birth. He could go all the way from the time the Gregorian Calendar became popular to thousands of years into the future. He did explain at the end that he knew because of the way the numbers added up, but unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time for him to tell us exactly how.

This assembly was incredibly engaging. I have never had so much fun feeling so stupid. The most incredible part was that he did it all in his head. He never touched a calculator.

Some people are just born to do math! It’s in their genes, I guess.

The rest of us? We have to work at it.

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“Be Authentic”


Dana Falsetti ’11 during assembly.

by Bea Feichtenbiner ’19

Lots of college students have no clue what they want to do with their life. They wander aimlessly from class to class, stressed but not overly worried for their future. They commit to multiple majors before choosing a career. Dana Falsetti ’11, a plus-sized yoga teacher and Instagram blogger, was one of these students.

During her college years, Dana thought she wanted to be a lawyer. Little did she know, her calling was something else entirely. Now, instead of practicing law, she travels the world teaching inclusive yoga. Recently, she has been to Arkansas, Denver, Seattle, and Thailand. She is only twenty-three, yet she seems to have a world of knowledge.

“Growing up,” Dana said during a recent George School assembly presentation, “my life was defined by the numbers on the scale.” Dana struggled with her weight all throughout childhood. In her sophomore year of college, she lost over a hundred pounds. She expected to feel happier, prouder, and better. However, this was when she hit her lowest of lows. The expectation she had was shattered. She felt the same as before she lost the weight, just lighter.

It was the summer after her sophomore year when she started yoga, on a spur of the moment decision. A studio near her house was offering classes for the summer for a relatively low price and she just went to check it out. She expected it to be easy, but her expectations were again shattered. Not only did she struggle immensely in the class, but she blamed it on her weight. She hated the class, but she went back again anyway because she “had something to prove to myself.”

After taking yoga classes all summer, Dana started an Instagram account that now has over 280,000 followers.

Instagram now calls Dana a public figure, while Buzzfeed wrote an article called “19 Badass Instagrammers Who Prove Yoga Bodies Come in All Shapes And Sizes” that featured her. She has been on the cover of Om Yoga Magazine, she was nominated for a 2017 Shorty Awards for Excellence in Social Media (Health & Wellness), and she has a combined social media following of over half a million.

Her Instagram documents her life as a yoga teacher, body activist, and empowered woman with captions that read like journal entries. Each one promotes body positivity, confidence, and strength.

Social media has been a favorite of trolls and haters since its creation, but Dana does not worry about this. She ignores the comments against her by simply not caring about those opinions. She is happy with who she is and her goal is to help others be as happy as her.

So her best advice? “Be authentic.”


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The Opposite of Hazing


Photo by Jim Inverso

by Amanda Acutt, school counselor and Paul Weiss, athletics director

Last spring Amanda and I presented a concept during assembly that we described as “the opposite of hazing.”  Our intent was to challenge the community to engage in purposeful behaviors that we called “Friending.”  Essentially, we asked the community to embrace the concept of engaging in pro-social, empathetic, and sometimes uncomfortable, leadership behavior. We were trying to communicate the behaviors and feelings that underpin being in a safe, supportive, and mindful community of Friends.

Most people are generally familiar with the definition of hazing. Traditionally the term is applied to ritual abuse used as an initiation rite in fraternities, sororities, military settings, sports, or clubs.  The actual definition of hazing has recently expanded to include “any action taken or any situation created intentionally that causes embarrassment, harassment, alienation, or ridicule, and risks emotional and/or physical harm to an individual, regardless of the person’s willingness to participate.”*

Many institutions provide community education and resources focused on identifying, reporting, and preventing hazing, and we believe this is an important part of culture creation.  However, our intent is to address culture creation in a different way.  We would like to start a dialog about an intentional approach to creating a safe, mutually supportive, and empathetic school culture or as we like to call it, the opposite of hazing.

This proactive approach to culture creation is consistent with many of the fundamental elements of a Friends community. The George School Mission (found HERE) says the following: “Students learn about the tension between the individual and community, that fairness and justice are inherently tied to each other.  They learn to express themselves without trampling others…” and “…in what seems a fitting fulfillment of our mission, George School students joyously go out in the world comfortable in their self-awareness and confident that they can make the world a better, kinder place.”

Our mission is not simply to educate academically, it is to perpetuate the values inherent in a Friends community, and for George School graduates to carry these values with them. When we ask if there is hazing in our community, we are asking the wrong question.  Instead, we should ask interconnected questions like:

  • What does it mean to intervene, to be a hero, to champion someone else, to be empathetic?
  • How aware are you of how others feel, of whether someone feels excluded, unheard, unseen, or uncomfortable?
  • What can you do, individually and collectively, to take responsibility for each other?

One of the things that is lost when we talk explicitly about hazing is the proactive ways in which we can do more for each other and our community.  The higher-level expectation is to seek out opportunities to connect with each other, particularly individuals and groups in the community who are most likely to feel different, disconnected, alienated, misunderstood, or invisible.

There are many examples of George School students exhibiting behaviors that embody the opposite of hazing. Here are just a few.

  • The student who sees a new student in the dining hall looking around nervously and calls out “come sit with us!”
  • The student who stops another student in class who is disrespecting a first year teacher.
  • The student who sees another student is upset and walks them over to the Student Health and Wellness Center, stays with them, and offers to let that student join her group of friends so they feel less alone and more connected.
  • A student who sets up a meeting with the school counselor to ask for tips on how to help a friend through a difficult time.

These examples are real. These students did not know they were being observed, and had no motive other than their belief that their behavior was the right thing to do.

Perpetuating a culture of treating each other as Friends is not limited to students interacting with each other.  This is one of the reasons we call everyone by his or her first name; we try to foster an environment in which every individual has intrinsic value, and making sure we see, hear, recognize, and care for each other is the shared thread in the fabric of our community.

The call to action is simple: strive to be intentional, externally aware, and empathetic.  Thinking about what behaviors not to do is a start, but leadership and positive culture creation is a deliberate process.

When the intent to do the “opposite of hazing” is shared by many, the effect is powerful.

*paraphrased from www.hazingprevention.org

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International Student Assembly – From my Point of View


by Bea Feichtenbiner ’19

George School’s International Student Assembly takes place every winter and students of all nationalities look forward to it. There are a variety of acts—from singing and dancing to Kung Fu and magic tricks. This year, Jason Chien’s ’18 Kung Fu performance was authentic right down to the clothing. Kiana Wong ’17, from Jamaica, performed an amazing modern dance to a popular song Don’t Judge Me by Chris Brown. Anney Ye ’20 and Jennifer Chang ’19 sang a popular Chinese song.

The International Student Assembly is one of my favorites each year. Students from all cultures, nationalities, and ethnicities have a chance to show off some of their many talents. American students get a chance to be immersed in traditions from all over the world. The assembly is enlightening, introspective, and entertaining. The audience can tell that the performers are having fun. Everyone has international friends at George School, and everyone wants to see their friends perform. I believe the International Student Assembly brings George School students closer to their roots—and to each other.

George School is home to hundreds of students, representing forty-three different countries. So why is it that students stay away from the unfamiliar when deciding what to perform? I imagine they could feel like their traditions won’t be respected, but what I think is more likely, after having spent so much time in the United States, they begin to assume American culture as their own. I would think the performers want to choose something they know, so the songs they hear on the radio on a regular basis are a good place to start. Maybe culturally traditional performances are harder to prepare or recognize. Being from the United States myself, I cannot explain the reasons for why international students choose the performances they do. I suppose it all depends on the student and how close they feel to their culture. Either way—culturally diverse performances or not—the international student assembly is not one to miss.


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