I had two struggles when I was a Christian school math teacher–how can I convince these students that math is a very important subject and how can I teach math from a Biblical worldview. It is truth that most of the students that learn Algebra or Trigonometry will never use it after high school. So often we answer the question of “Where are we going to use math in real life” with “You are going to need it to get into college.” After listening to this interview from Katherine Loop of Masterbooks, I finally understand that the importance of a Christian Worldview in teaching math.
Our worldview answers the questions: where math came from, why it matters, and how should we approach it.
Math is just facts right? We’ve been taught since kindergarten on up that 1+1=2. This is fact. But how we approach that fact and use it, can be explained in our worldview. There’s a reason to all these mathematical facts and processes. When you have a worldly worldview, then you’ll see math as just a subject that only mathematicians and scientists can understand. They’re the only ones that actually use it.But if you see math from a Christian worldview, then you'll see that all the numbers and x's and y's are really describing God's creation.Click To Tweet
I think this is partly why some kids struggle to understand math. They see scientists and mathematicians as special people. Most of those who struggle truly believe that they are not math people. But that is the wrong way of looking at it. When students look at the numbers, they should be looking at God.
Math is not a neutral subject. When we teach/learn math, we’re giving that glory either to God, to man, or to the numbers themselves.
We’ve always viewed math as this neutral subject which is why we separate it into its own little bubble. But we need to change our perspective and see that math is not neutral. Then we’d realize that when we teach math, we’re either giving glory to God or to the numbers or to man. Colossians 1:16 tells us that ALL things were created by Him. Sure, man developed symbols for math but those symbols describe ideas and quantities that God created and is sustaining. He is holding all things together.
Jeremiah 33:25-26 says that if you just look around, there’s ordinances and consistencies that show God is faithful. Math is a way to describe those consistencies. So when you have all this in mind while teaching, then you’re really beholding God’s glory in display. Math can be trusted, and it works because God can be trusted. And all these properties that we teach are true. And no matter what, 1+1 will always equal 2. Nothing’s going to change that. God determined all of these to be true.
If your children are not taught that math works because God created it and He is faithful, then they are left with a faulty worldview that just gives the glory to men or the math itself. Math’s very existence points us to God. It doesn’t make sense apart from God. Every time a child solves a math problem and sees it work in the real world, it’s because God is faithfully keeping His promises and can be trusted. So where are you giving the glory for math?
Math is a tool that God has given us to accomplish the work He assigned us.
The problem with math is that it isn’t always intuitively obvious how something can be applied. So we have to think of math as a toolbox. It has tools that come in different shapes and sizes. If you think about all the tools in your toolbox, you have some like the screwdriver, which are simple and you know how it applies. That’s like addition. Addition is simple and easy to apply. But there are other tools, that are not so obvious in their applications. You can study that tool and spend a lot of time figuring out how to use that tool.
It’s the same with math. Take Algebra for example. You don’t exactly know how you can really use it at first. But as you’re studying to be an engineer or a mathematician, then the applications become really obvious. Our children need to be shown that the things they’re learning in math are real life tools that help us accomplish the work that God has given us to do. We need to take the math out of the textbooks and into the real world.
As you teach math from a Christian worldview, you need to emphasize that Math is practical to all aspects of life.
If you look at a sunflower, you can see that the seeds are arranged into two spirals. When you count the number of seeds in those spirals, you will see that the ratio between the two spirals is approximately the same for any sunflower. This enables the most number of seeds to fit in the sunflower head. Math helps us see this.
The law of gravity in Algebra uses letters as placeholders for the force of gravity and the mass of two objects. The letters are used to represent the relationship so that we are not tied to a specific situation. We can use letters and manipulate them knowing that because God’s faithfulness is holding things together. We learn math because of this fact.
There are many more examples that we can draw from that show that we use math everyday. God created such a complex universe that it’s hard not to see it if you teach math with a Christian worldview.
Teaching math a Christian worldview, allows us to teach with understanding because math comes from God.
Math builds on itself. Sometimes when students struggle in math, it’s because they didn’t understand something earlier on. If you just learn to memorize the facts and the steps without really understanding it, then it will eventually catch up. Of course, knowing the facts and steps is important, but understanding it helps you see the math as a way of describing God’s creation.
At the very beginning, when your child is learning how to count, how to write numbers, teach them that this number is a symbol we use to represent one, two, etc. But there’s also different ways to show the number. That is men using their God-given abilities to describe God’s creation.
When they get older, you teach the rules and the memorization. This can be done using manipulatives or flash cards. Then they reach Algebra, where they use letters as placeholders to stand for quantity and use it to record real life relationships.
Teaching with understanding is explaining why that concept is the way it is and why does it work the way it does. The more you can show to your child that math isn’t just some random thing that we try to get them to memorize, then that will help them retain the information and help them see God’s creation.
If you want to listen to this session, register for free at homeschoolsummits.com. This is the session is entitled “Teaching Math from a Christian Worldview” with Katherine Loop. Even though the summit is over, I believe you can still view the free sessions. I’ll post more summaries of the free sessions soon, so stay tuned!