2002 by Cindy Downes, All rights reserved.
difficult to encourage your children to study mathematics
if you can’t give them a good reason for doing so. Unfortunately,
very few of us know a good reason. Although most of us will
agree that a solid foundation in basic arithmetic is essential,
mathematics such as trigonometry and calculus seem to be irrelevant
to all but the “elite few.”
of us lack “a good reason” to study mathematics
because of the way we were educated. We were taught in classrooms,
using traditional textbooks, where the goal was to memorize
formulas, plug numbers into the formulas, and get the “right”
answers on a test. Mathematics had little relevance to real
life. As John Taylor Gatto says in his book, A Different
Kind of Teacher, “… the work in classrooms
isn’t significant work; it fails to satisfy real needs
pressing on the individual; it doesn’t contribute to
solving problems encountered in actual life.”
were periods in history, however, when people knew “a
good reason” to study mathematics. Between the 16th
and 18th century, scholars studied mathematics “with
the conviction that the biblical God had designed the universe
in a rational and orderly fashion; in fact, so orderly that
it could be described mathematically.” (James Nickel, Mathematics: Is God Silent?)
Men like Kepler, Newton, Pascal, and Euler, “had no question in their minds that
God had fashioned a rational, orderly universe” and
that “He (God) had given man alone the capacity to discover
and to put to use its most intimate secrets.” (Gale
Christianson, In the Presence of the Creator.)
can help the future generations remember and obey God’s
mandates by giving them a mathematics education taught from
God’s perspective. Simply having them complete a textbook,
containing an occasional scripture or two, is not the answer.
Our teaching must not only instruct them in basic arithmetic,
but also enable them to see how mathematics can “describe
the wonders of God’s creation, reveal the invisible
attributes of God, serve to aid man in fulfilling God’s
mandate of dominion, and assist God’s people in fulfilling
God’s mandate of worldwide evangelism.” (James
Nickel, Mathematics: Is God Silent?)
setting aside one day per week to use some of the following
ideas in lieu of a math textbook. By doing so, you may
raise up a future Isaac Newton. Your child may be the next
one who discovers a mathematical principle that provides
a better way of life for God’s people or creates
a new tool to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Show them how mathematics reveals the wonders of God’s
creation and the invisible attributes of God. The best
resource I have found to help parents in this area is, Mathematics:
Is God Silent? by
James Nickel. It is not an easy read so I recommend you read
it and explain it’s highlights to your children.
You can purchase this from Amazon.com or directly from the
publisher, Ross House Books, PO Box 67, Vallecito, CA 95251.
For your children, look for resources that explain the mathematical
structure of music. (Did you know that all musical notes can
be described in a mathematic formula except those sounds that
are not pleasing to the ear?) Teach them about Fibonacci’s
sequence and discuss how it relates to God’s creation.
Read about the “Divine Proportion” and show them
how it relates to patterns in nature and in art. Read and
discuss infinity and relate it to our infinite God. Discuss
how God is unchangeable and how mathematics echoes this with
it’s unchangeable laws. Some resources for the above:
Show them how mathematics progressed through history.
Read them books about the history of math in terms children
can understand. The Wonderful World of Mathematics by
Lancelot Hogben is easy to read and colorfully illustrated.
As most books written about the history of math, it does
include a brief reference to evolution. First published
in 1955 as,
Man Must Measure. Unfortunately, it is out of print
- check used bookstores. Well worth locating. Check your
Read to them biographies of famous mathematicians and show
them how Godly people used math to subdue the earth and
advance God’s kingdom. Read biographies of Copernicus, Kepler,
Galileo, Euler, and Sir Isaac Newton. Find out what motivated
them to learn math and what their discoveries did to advance
God’s kingdom. Examples:
Read a variety of math books - here is a list of my
Show them how math affects real life. Give them real life
applications to math. For example: when studying fractions,
give them cooking classes, build a treehouse, or do other
real life activities that depend on the use of fractions.
Read books that show real people using math. Example: She
Does Math! Real-life Problems from Women on the Job by
Marla Parker includes brief autobiographies of several
mathematicians and describes how they use math in their
careers. It also includes problems for the readers to
Give them a good foundation in basic math facts — the
tools they need to go to the next level. Use their learning
style as much as possible to drill facts:
Give them music lessons. It has been proven that music
lessons help your children to learn math. You can do this
inexpensively at home with resources such as the James
course which are available at most music supply houses.
Help them understand math concepts, not just work formulas.
Read books to them about math such as Angles are Easy
as Pie by Robert Froman, which is an introduction
to angles for young readers; and Fraction Fun by
David A. Adler, which is an introduction to fractions
for young readers. Other titles by these authors as
just as good. Check your library.
Teach them how to think logically. Give your children practice
in logic. In the early history of our country, junior high
age students read books such as Pascal’s Penseés and
Payne’s Common Sense. Now these are only
read at ivy league colleges such as Harvard and Yale. A
good resource of logic instruction for students who are
not ready for Penseés or Common Sense is Critical
Thinking Books. I especially recommend
Think A Minutes, Level A Book 1.
Let them explore math as their interest arises. As a child,
Pascal was homeschooled by his father who believed that
natural curiosity should lead children in their study.
Consequently, Pascal was allowed to spend hours reading
on his own and studying what interested him. Through his
reading, he became interested in geometry, and before he
was 12 years old, he mastered 32 theorems of Euclid’s
Elements without his father’s
knowledge or instruction. At age 18, he invented a calculating
machine just because he wanted to help his father with
his tax work. Why not give your children time to explore
their interests? As they come across something in their
textbook which interests them, allow them to put the textbook
aside and explore that interest.
Help them be good stewards of the math ability they have
received. God has given each of our children different
gifts and abilities. Your role as their parent is to help
them identify these gifts and then help them to develop
them for God’s glory.
Not all children will be future Sir Isaac Newtons. Stretch
those who show a mathematical gifting, but don’t
force a future businessman to master Euclid’s Elements. “Each
one should use whatever gift he has received to serve
others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various
(1 Peter 4:10-NIV).