Story: Take Off the Mask

On the outside, Olivia looked like she had it all together. She always wore a smile and never looked frazzled or tired. Her secret?

A mask. It was easy to look put together wearing a mask. No matter how out of sorts inside she felt, her mask was always smiling. No matter how bad the sickness from which she suffered was, her mask always looked healthy and vibrant.

Only there were a lot of problems with wearing a mask. For one, it kept her from getting better. Underneath the mask, Olivia was suffering from a terrible illness, and the mask only trapped it all inside, making it worse and keeping her from getting help. After all, others had no idea she was even sick!

One day, Olivia realized she couldn’t handle the mask any longer. She needed help. Hesitatingly, she allowed a friend to see under the mask. To her great surprise, her friend didn’t freak out. Instead, she pulled up her own mask, showing that she, too, was trapping an illness inside. Honest with each other at last, they were able to help one another and get the treatment they needed. Oh, how freeing it was to let the mask fall off!

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 5:7 (ESV)

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 (ESV)

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16 (ESV)

Get Free Short Stories Via Email
Subscribe to our short story list--you'll get a free eBook of short stories too!
We respect your privacy.

Super Bowl, Super Football Math

Football Math

Football MathHere are a few examples of how you can use the Super Bowl to show your students that math really does apply outside of a textbook.

We learn math, not just to pass a test, but to be equipped to use it to help us in tasks God’s given us here on earth (and to behold His glory and faithfulness in holding all things together—see God and Math?).

Believe it or not, the Super Bowl was replete with examples of math in action.

  • The Super Bowl Name – Notice the Roman numeral in Super Bowl LII. The Super Bowl name (along with the first quarter, second quarter, first down, second down, etc.) is an example of ordinal numbers.
  • The Team Jerseys – Perhaps the most obvious numbers on the field are those on the team jerseys. There’s an example of how we can use numbers like names—in this case, to identify different players.
  • The Field – Yep, there are numbers on the field itself (50-yard line, etc.), and distance is constantly measured throughout the game. How far of a field goal needs kicked? How much distance left to go to get to the next first down? In a more background way, laying out the football field itself required measurements. And how much grass is needed? Or paint? Again, measuring (think geometry) in action!
  • Confetti (and Other Costs and Profits) – So how much confetti was needed to fire off at the end of the game? And how much would it cost? How much did everything at the Super Bowl cost altogether? How much was brought in through ticket sales? Math can help us answer these behind-the-scenes questions.
  • The Ads – A lot of math goes on behind the scenes when it comes to ads. Below are a few examples.
    • How much money did NBC receive in advertising? If you knew the price of the ads sold, that could be calculated using addition. (In 2017, one source said it was around 385 million.)
    • When deciding if they should buy an ad, companies use math to help them compare different options. One useful measurement often used to compare options and develop an overall advertising plan is Gross Rating Points (GRPs), which is found by multiplying two different measurements together.[1] One can also look at how much the ad costs per thousand people it reaches, which is found by dividing the cost of the ad by the total people reached (in thousands).[2]
    • How much does an ad cost altogether? That would take adding up the cost of making the ad, the actual cost of buying the ad space, etc.
    • Is the ad a good ad to run? There’s no perfect way to tell this, but there are a lot of ways to try…and math can help. For example, one could test the ad before paying millions to air it in the Super Bowl. One testing method called the MSW* ARS shows ads (inside programs) to a sample group of people. Ads are given a score based on subtracting the percent that was for the target brand after the ad with the percent that was for the target brand before the ad (in other words, seeing the difference the ad made).[3]
    • Was the ad effective? Again, there’s no perfect way to measure this, but there are a lot of ways to try. Marketers use numerous formulas when evaluating sales and advertising to try to make sure that their advertising is really making a difference in sales.
  • The Graphics – Numerous graphics were introduced throughout the game. While we don’t often think of math and graphic design in the same sentence, graphic design often does use math. Not only does the computer program(s) used in designing use a lot of math behind the scenes, but graphic designers often use math to help position items, scale them, determine proportions, etc. Oh, and colors are specified using—you guessed it—numbers.
  • Statistics – What was the average cost of a 30-second Super Bowl ad? What is the football player’s percent complete? How many yards has the quarterback thrown so far (this would require adding)? And a host of other stats that use numbers (and addition to find those numbers)!
  • The Special Effects – Think of all the work that went in behind the scenes into coordinating various special effects. Math likely had a part in a lot of it: the angles of the lights, the levels of the various microphones (yes, math helps us measure audio levels too!), etc.

A lot goes in to an event like the Super Bowl—including a lot of math. The list above is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully it will get you (and your students) thinking.

Math’s much more than a textbook exercise—it’s a real-life tool we can use while praising the Creator.

Reminder: We’ve got a lot of math resources (and even curriculum) to help you teach math from this perspective.


[1] J. Craig Andrews and Terence A. Shimp, Advertising, Promotion, and Other Aspects of Integrated Marketing Communications, 10th ed. (Boston, MA: Cengage Learning, 2018), p. 348.[2] Ibid., p. 356.

[3] Ibid., p. 386-388.

Story: Always a Way of Escape

“We’ve got you now.”

The evil voice came over the loudspeaker, with a hideous laugh.

Sam shuddered. It did indeed seem as if he was trapped. Hedges surrounded him on every side, looming above him and alongside him, as if they were about to devour him. All around was darkness. It was hopeless. Despair gripped his heart.

“I’ll always provide a way of escape”—his father’s words rang through his mind.

Sam looked around. He sure didn’t see a way to escape this. But his father never lied. “Father, show me the way of escape,” he cried. He looked closer at the hedges. Was that an opening he saw? There seemed to be a faint light coming through.

Sam moved closer to investigate. Sure enough, where before all had appeared to be darkness, he now could clearly see a small tunnel in the hedge. It wasn’t necessarily easy fitting through it, but Sam could make it. He got on his hands and knees and crawled through the hedge. The branches poked him, but on the other side—yes, it was true—he was free!

His father had indeed provided a way of escape—he just had to look for it.

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)

Short Story: Truth Glasses

Darkness—oppressive darkness. It was all Emma could see. No matter which way she looked, there it was staring back at her. Each path she could take led to the same thing: more darkness. What had become of light? Did it even exist anymore?

Perhaps it did, somewhere. Emma knew at the end of her journey there’d be light. But there was no more light on the journey, of that she felt sure.

Emma’s last several miles had been filled with obstacles. Now all she could see were dark shadows stretching out before her.

“It’s just so discouraging,” Emma moaned to her traveling companion, Sarah. “I’m not sure why my father set me on this journey in the first place.”

“Okay, I know it seems discouraging,” Sarah replied. “But you’re not seeing the truth, Emma. Yes, there’s darkness, but there’s light too. There’s night, but there’s also day. You’ve got to put those glasses on.”

“Glasses?” Emma asked listlessly.

“Yes, you know, the ones your father gave you.”

Right—the glasses. Her father had given her glasses to help her see the world as it really was. Emma was pretty sure the glasses wouldn’t change anything—that she was already seeing everything accurately—but she pulled them out and dutifully held them up to her eyes anyway.

Wait—there was light amid what before had seemed only darkness! What a difference it made to look at the situation through the lenses of truth.


“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:7 (ESV)

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'” John 8:31-32 (ESV)

Evangelism Is Good…But I Just Can’t Do It

I was blessed to be brought up hearing about Jesus and to find forgiveness in Him at an early age. I was active in serving within the church. Yet at the same time, I could count on one hand the people I’d shared the gospel with—and then, it had been quite poorly.

It’s not that I didn’t want to share—I did. Only I was scared. What if I said the wrong thing and turned someone off? What if they asked a question I couldn’t handle? Besides, I didn’t even have opportunities to share, did I? Naturally reserved as I was, I was hardly the kind of girl to approach a stranger.

Several years ago, though, God began convicting my heart in this area.

One time while out with friends, one of the people in the group stopped and shared the gospel with a homeless man—a man I had walked right by. That interaction got me thinking. Perhaps I had more opportunities than I thought.

Later, I attended the funeral for a man who actively shared the gospel. Each person who came was given a gospel of John to give away. That gospel burned a whole in my pocket for months. I simply couldn’t figure out how to give it away.

I began asking God to show me how to share Him and absorbing the resources He sent. I collected tracts, watched videos, and read books. I watched countless YouTube videos from Ray Comfort (LivingWaters.com). As I prayed more for the lost around me, my heart grew heavier for their salvation. But I still couldn’t bring myself to actually hand out a tract or start a conversation.

I eventually got invited to join a group that was going to a local mall to witness. I started the evening so scared I was convinced the ground would open up and swallow me, but then I got to watch the kind of amazing conversations we were able to have with complete strangers. I wish I could describe the joy of watching the Lord work in someone’s heart as I shared—I couldn’t believe I’d let fear keep me from the incredible privilege of proclaiming the Good News.

Now, many years and hundreds of gospel conversations later, I continue to be amazed at the divine appointments God has, and at how evangelism blesses me, reminding me of God’s salvation, and driving me to my knees and His Word.

As I look back, there are two key truths that helped me—and they are truths I have to keep going back to. The first is the reality of eternity. One analogy that Ray Comfort shared really got to me: that of a burning building. If a building was on fire, I wouldn’t worry about whether I was interrupting someone or if I said it the right way or if they thought I was crazy; I would tell people the building was on fire! Did I not believe that those around me were in even greater danger? A famous atheist put it well: “How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”[1]

The second truth is that evangelism isn’t about me. A good deal of my fear and nervousness comes when I fall into thinking I have to have it figured out or get it right. Yet evangelism is about the message, not the messenger.

If you’ve not yet experienced the joy of sharing Jesus with someone, I hope you won’t wait to begin! Evangelism is a huge privilege God offers to each one of His children.


First published in the Immanuel Bible Church Women’s Ministry Newsletter; reprinted with permission.

[1] Penn Jillette, “A Gift of a Bible,” video, 3:00-3:38, July 8, 2010, https://youtu.be/6md638smQd8

Weather Prediction & Math
– Plus God’s Handiwork in Snowflakes

With a lot of the U.S. facing cold temperatures and snow recently, I thought it might be a good time to write about how math helps us explore the weather.

  • Basic Math & the Weather – Have you ever noticed how many times numbers appear in news reports on the weather? Consider this recent ABC News article on the storm currently plowing through the East Coast. The number of flights canceled, the amount of snow collected, a comparison with previous snow records, wind measurements, temperatures—reporting on all of these things uses basic math and numbers.
  • Algebra, Calculus, & Predicting the Weather – One question a lot of parents and teachers get when it comes to math—especially algebra and upper math—is why it’s needed. Well, to help us predict the weather is one answer! We use lots of algebra and upper math in exploring the weather. For a simple explanation of the use of super computers and equations in weather prediction, see NOAA’s “Weather Prediction: It’s Math!” For more details, see EDN’s “The Math of Meteorology.”

The weather is just one example of how math isn’t a dry textbook exercise—it’s a way to describe God’s creation and help us with real-life tasks.

Biblical Math ResourcesP.S. Math can be a lot more fun (and make a lot more sense) when students understand why they’re learning what they’re learning and see it in context with real life and science. We offer curriculum and supplemental resources to help you transform math this year.

Bonus: God’s Handiwork in Snowflakes
Math might not be the first thing you think of when you see snow, but believe it or not, math helps us describe God’s handiwork in each tiny snowflake. Check out our previous blog post on “Snowflake Math.

Short Story: Ignoring the Lantern

Short Story: Ignoring the Lantern

Short Story: Ignoring the LanternThe children started on their journey with a light heart. Their father had given them everything they needed to make the journey, including a lantern to light their path.

There was just one problem. As odd as it might sound, the children weren’t using their lantern. They carried it with them–but they didn’t turn it on. Instead, they tried to force their way through in the darkness.

It was comically sad to watch their progress. They agonized over their steps, stumbling forward, all the while failing to turn on the lantern that would have illuminated their path. They complained about the darkness, allowed discouragement and depression to grip their heart, and wondered if their father had forgotten them. Yet all the while, they failed to turn on the lantern he’d provided. They carried it with them and talked about it with one another, but it didn’t seem to occur to them that it would only light their path if they actually turned it on. The few brief times they turned it on, they did so out of ritual, not really using it to look at the path.

Oh, how they were missing out! Had they only let it, they’d have discovered that the lantern’s light would have dispelled the darkness and shown them the truth about the path on which they were walking. When, oh when, would they let it light their path?

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105 (ESV)

Spiders, Math, & the Creator

It’s hard to watch a spider spinning its web without being awed at how carefully he engineers something so fragile, yet so strong.

When we look at spider webs using math, the awe simply compounds. Did you know that “the spider web is actually comprised of numerous radii, a logarithmic spiral (given by the polar equation r=ae^{bθ} ) and the arithmetic spiral (given by the polar equation r = a+bθ )”1?

(Video courtesy of Julie G.; used with permission.)

Nature worded it this way: “Spider webs themselves are characterized by a highly organized geometry that optimizes their function.”2

Spiders are yet one more example of how as we use math to explore God’s creation, we’re awed at the Creator’s wisdom and care. God designed spiders to spin these marvelous structures!

And we should be grateful He did. While spiders can certainly be spooky, they serve an incredible purpose. In his video Spiders! Ogres, Allies & Architects3, creation speaker Mike Snavely points out that if spiders were to take a vacation, the world would be overrun with insects. He actually uses math to better help us appreciate this fact.

In the video, Snavely looked with the viewer at the results of a study of how many ounces of insects one specific type of spider eats on average per day, and at another study done in Holland estimating the average number of spiders in each square yard. Then using basic arithmetic and some more facts (such as the size of Holland, the size of the world compared to Holland, the average weight of a person, etc.), he walks through how one could arrive at an estimate that spiders consume bugs that would equal the weight of 10,000,000 people per day! [Note: There’s no way to perfectly estimate something like this, but, as Snavely points out, “even if this number is exaggerated by a factor of 3 or even 4, that’s still a staggering number of bugs per day.” And other research indicates that the 10,000,000 number may even be a conservative estimate. It’s safe to say that spiders eat a LOT of bugs…and math helps us get a better idea of the magnitude of how much these little creatures eat!]

Now aren’t you glad God made spiders such incredible engineers? He knew that in a fallen world, we’d need these little creatures to keep the insect population down.

I loved how Snavely actually walked through the math (which was simple arithmetic) behind the estimate of how many bugs spiders eat. While many times science books or resources only quote a final number on a topic, know that math is involved in calculating the numbers you encounter in science. Math is truly the tool we use to explore God’s creation.

Here are a couple of ideas you can use to use math to explore God’s handiwork in spiders:

  • Have your student draw a spider web. (You can find various instructions online; here are 3 Ways to Draw a Spider Web.) As they draw, point out that we call what they’re drawing “line segments,” “angles,” etc. Depending on your student’s ages, you could also talk about the names we use to describe different types of angles (such as acute and right) that they are drawing. Math helps us name God’s creation. You could also have them pull out a protractor and measure some angles.
  • With older students, have them take a look at the spirals in many spider webs.
  • Head for a walk and find a spider web. Use a protractor to estimate some of the angles (being careful not to disrupt the web).
  • Read this article by Institute for Creation Research about God’s design on display in spider webs, and take a moment to thank God together for His wisdom and care over each detail.
  • Watch Mike Snavely’s Spiders!. You’ll be wowed by these amazing little creatures…and the even more amazing God Who created them. Plus, you’ll get to see an amazing example of math in action.

Reminder:  If you’re looking for a math curriculum that incorporates real life examples (including spiders!) so students see math in connection with God’s creation, be sure to check out Principles of Mathematics.
Principles of Mathematics


References:

[1] Alicia Bautista, “Spider Webs: Creepy or Cool?” (Math Projects, 2015), http://recursiveprocess.com/mathprojects/index.php/2015/06/09/spider-webs-creepy-or-cool/ (June 17, 2015 update).

[2] S.W. Cranford, et al., “Nonlinear Material Behaviour of Spider Silk Yields Robust Webs,” Nature. 482 (7383), 72-76. Quoted in Brian Thomas, “The Masterful Design of Spider Webs” Acts & Facts. 41 (4): 16. 2012, http://www.icr.org/article/masterful-design-spider-webs/

[3] Mike Snavely, Spiders! Ogres, Allies & Architects (Mission: Imperative!, 2015).

Story: Comparison Forest

Comparison Forest was a strange forest indeed.

The fact that it had a lot of different types of trees in it didn’t make it strange. What made Comparison Forest unique was how all the trees compared themselves with each other.

The maples all tried hard to stretch their branches higher, hoping to achieve the oak’s height. They wished they could produce the acorns the squirrels and other animals loved so well. Sometimes, one could even hear an audible sigh in the forest as the maples lamented not being oaks. The fact that they offered brilliant colors each fall and delicious syrup each spring (plus seeds the animals loved) didn’t seem very important to them.

On the flip side, the oaks could often be seen drooping their branches in an attempt to look like maples. They felt terrible about being so large and conspicuous. Why couldn’t they be maples?

Then there were the pine trees. They hated how sappy and prickly they were (and how soft their wood was) and wished they could have beautiful leaves and firmer wood like the maples and oaks. It didn’t occur to them what protection and beauty they provided during the winter months when the maples and oaks lost those leaves.

Each tree in the forest was too busy comparing to realize that each of them had a role to play and gift to give.

“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them:…” Romans 12:4-6 (ESV)

Story: The Search for the Perfect Food

Steak - Story
  • Steak - Story“This steak is amazing!”

Jessica exclaimed, heartily digging into her steak.

“You think so? I was thinking that it’s not nearly as delicious as that Chinese place we went last night.”

Jessica shook her head at her sister’s comment. It didn’t seem that Sue could be contented by anything. When they were at the Chinese restaurant down the street, all Sue could talk about was how she wanted a steak.

“Perhaps next time we should try something totally different—maybe Indian food,” Jessica suggested.

Sue’s eyes lit up. “That sounds great! Let’s do it.”

Only when eating the Indian food, Sue found it too spicy. So next they tried a Greek restaurant…only to discover it was too bland for Sue.

Next stop: a Mexican restaurant famous for their tasty dishes. Only while eating Mexican, all Sue could think of was how much better Italian would be.

Jessica hesitatingly agreed to go to an Italian restaurant the next time her sister asked her out to eat. But when Sue began complaining about all the tomatoes and cheese and about how what they really needed was a good, all-American steak, Jessica decided she’d had enough.

“You know, Sue, food can’t make you content,” Jessica pointed out. “Maybe you’re expecting it to do more than it was designed to do.”


Do we look for contentment in things that can’t bring it? Or have we learned the secret of being content wherever we are?

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Philippians 4:11-13 (KJV)