Science, literature, and history all come from concrete examples that we observe in the universe. There organisms, planets, and physical books to analyze. History is the record of things that actually happened. But math doesn’t tangibly exist in the world around us.
What do I mean? Well, you cannot go out and find the Pythagorean theorem or even the number 2. You can find situations where these mathematical concepts are applied, but you cannot find the actual principle. This has sparked a debate about math that is nonexistent for other subjects.
Where did math come from?
There are two main theories to answer this question. First, some say that math was invented by humans. It exists only in our minds. We created numbers and theorems and then project them onto the universe. There is no number 2, only the concept of 2 that all humans agree upon.
The second theory is that math is embedded in the universe around us, the principals of mathematics are a part of the fabric of our world. Humans didn’t invent these principals, we discover them as we explore our world.
As a Christian, what you believe about math is shaped by what you believe about God and the world. I’ll share some articles and videos on this subject soon but it is worth puzzling over for yourself for a moment. Was it invented or discovered? What do you think?
The past spring I shared the 6 Secrets of a Successful College-Prep Math Program at the NCHE Thrive Conference. The first secret is to make your plan, begin the high school program by laying out a clear path to success in college. Below I posted the slip so you can hear me explain in detail how to create an excellent high school math program for any type of student.
I am a Christian and I am also a mathematician. During high school I didn’t think those two identities had anything to do with each other (and I was not referring to myself as a mathematician either!). But in college I realized that every academic discipline is affected by our worldview. Even the “unbiased” study of mathematics is based on certain assumptions and those assumptions are based on our philosophy of the world and how it was made.
We cannot separate our faith from any area of our lives. Most of us agree that our worldview should shape our thoughts about every academic discipline…but what might be a rather obvious connection to the humanities and even science can be a bit more elusive for math. Many of us are focused on just getting through whatever math course we have to take, it is an obstacle to overcome so we can get on with our lives and serve God in the church and the workplace.
But I believe God has much more for us than that. Math helps us interpret the world and God created the world, leaving imprints of his character for us to discover. When we discipline ourselves to learn and master mathematics we can expect to gain new glimpses into the character of God. And that is much more convincing reason to get up and study integrals than just wanting to pass an exam.
This summer I am spending time studying the connection between theology and mathematics. I’ll be posting my thoughts and findings here in a series called “God and math.” I hope it serves to stretch your mind and reveal how we can worship God even as we solve equations.
SAT Math starts on Monday and I cannot wait, I’ve been missing math problems in my life lately 🙂 If you were thinking about taking the class there is only one spot remaining. Otherwise consider taking the identical 7-week course this fall.
My husband and I are always looking for an excuse to go to NYC and this museum in Manhattan definitely justifies the trip. There are science museums in lots and lots of cities but what about math? A group in Manhattan decided it was time we had a National Museum of Mathematics. The exhibits are all designed to engage the public in the world of mathematics. Additionally, the museum hosts workshops and lectures.
A great video introducing you to the museum is here.
I hope you enjoyed the soap bubble experiment I posted on Monday. Bubbles are a simple part of creation that can hold the attention of even my 1 year old son. But they also are a subject of advanced study because of one basic property, the soap film always forms the smallest surface area possible. No matter what shape you stretch the soapy film over it will always obey this property, this is what happened with the cube in the experiment.
Most of the time bubbles form a simple shape, the sphere.
When multiple bubbles are joined together things become more complex and beautiful.
Currently mathematicians are trying to solve the problem of finding a formula that will predict bubble arrangements. For now, they have discovered ways to predict the shapes of double bubbles and even used bubbles to model other phenomena in nature. Fascinated? You can read more here.