## Pi Day Is March 14

March 14 (i.e., 3/14) is also known as Pi Day.

Pi, which begins 3.14, is a number that has long fascinated people, as it keeps going and going and going. In other words, it’s a number we can’t even fully describe, yet at the same time, it’s useful in an amazing number of situations (including in helping us measure circles).

Pi reminds us of our limited knowledge (we can’t even fully describe parts of God’s creation) and should cause us turn in awe and wonder at God’s greatness!

Yet instead, many get lost focusing on the number pi itself–worshiping the creation rather than the Creator (Romans 1:20-23).

For more thoughts on pi, check out “Thoughts on Pi,” as well as this lesson from Principles of Mathematics. They both have information you could share with your students now or whenever you cover pi; you could also have students apply pi themselves by finding the circumference of a few circles…or, for older students, by using one of the many physics formulas that utilize pi (see this Wikipedia list for ideas). Update: NASA has put together a Pi Day Challenge that shows just how useful pi is! Note that NASA does not come from a biblical worldview, so please use discernment (while most problems looked great, one at least hinted at finding life on other planets).

When looking at pi or any area of math, remember to point students to the Creator and not to the creation itself.

Reminder: We’ve got a lot of math resources (and even curriculum) to help you teach math as a real-life tool that points to the Creator.

Please share this post with your friends to help them see God’s handiwork in math too!

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## 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.

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).

## Solar Eclipse, Math, & Praising the Creator

This upcoming Monday, August 21, 2017, be prepared for a period of darkness in the middle of the day as we experience a solar eclipse.

While solar eclipses occur periodically, it’s rare that the entire United States can view it. According to Time and Date, the last time “a total solar eclipse was visible from coast to coast was almost 100 years ago, on June 8, 1918.”

This short article by Kahn Academy offers a brief overview of a solar eclipse. NASA’s website on the eclipse is complete with information, along with a page of math challenges.

Math challenges? Yes. Math is the tool that we use to explore God’s creation—including the movement of the heavenly bodies overhead. While we can easily read online dates and times that the eclipse will occur in different parts of the world, it’s worth noting that math was used to predict those dates and times. You see, God governs creation so predictably and reliably that we can use math to know ahead of time when something like an eclipse will take place.

It is fascinating to go back and read the works of Johannes Kepler, known for discovering the Laws of Planetary Motion (i.e., mathematical ways of describing the consistent way God causes planets to orbit the sun). His work (which contains a lot of math, by the way) is interspersed with praises to the Creator, such as this one:

Crying out with the royal Psalmist: Great is our Lord and great His virtue and of His wisdom there is no number…To Him be praise, honour, and glory, wourld without end. Amen.[1]

As we experience the eclipse Monday, may we pause and praise the great Creator, exclaiming with the Psalmist:

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof. Psalm 19:1-6 (KJV)

I hope you’ll have fun learning a little about the eclipse (see the links above to get started) and how we use math to help us describe the movement of the sun, earth, and moon (look for words like angles, elliptical, etc., as you read). And then as you’re wowed by the ellipse Monday, remember how much greater the Creator is…and that, though our sin earns us His wrath, He took that punishment upon Himself (1 Peter 2:24) and offers us eternal life with Him forever (John 3:16; John 17:3). Is there someone you know with whom you could share that incredible news?

Reminder: If you’re looking for a curriculum that teaches math in such a way that students leave math praising the Creator and using math as a real-life tool to describe His creation, be sure to check out Principles of Mathematics. We also have resources available to help you bring that perspective for other grades.

[1] Stephen Hawking, ed. On the Shoulders of Giants: The Great Works of Physics and Astronomy. Philadelphia: Running Press Book Publishers, 2002, pg. 1157.

## Why, Oh, Why Must I Learn Math?

I recently asked some folks this question:

What are you/your children’s biggest struggles in math?

The responses varied (stay tuned for others in future blogs), but several voiced the same struggle: why.

Knowing why you need to learn something certainly doesn’t seem like too much to expect. It’s actually a very reasonable question. As Alfred North Whitehead said, “There can be nothing more destructive of true education than to spend long hours in the acquirement of ideas and methods that lead nowhere.”

So why math? Well, math is a way of describing the consistent manner in which God holds His creation together. Thus it helps us work with the world around us—from everyday tasks to sending men to the moon. It helps us complete various tasks that God gives us to do here on earth.

For example, fractions give us a handy way of describing division, helping us work with real-life relationships. Oh, and don’t forget that music notes, sewing, and cooking all use fractions! (There’s more on the why of fractions in my previous post “Why Learn Fractions?”)

One mother shared that her child wondered why finding the area of triangles matters. While triangles might not at first appear to be the most practical shape, they can actually help us measure such real-life distances as the height of a building and the distance across a stream. (In fact, that’s exactly what students learn to do in Principles of Mathematics while studying triangles.) As for finding their area, triangles also help us measure other shapes. For example, if we want to find the area of a hexagon (which is what bees make their honeycombs out of), we would use triangles to do it. Triangles—along with the rest of geometry—are incredibly practical!

For those of you wondering the “why” of high school math, I recently had an article published in The Old Schoolhouse magazine on that exact topic. You can read “What’s the Purpose of High School Math?” online (note: it may take a minute to load)…and I’d love if you’d then leave a comment here and let me know what you think.

And for those wondering how to teach math in such a way that your students will understand why they’re learning each skill they study, check out the math resources I wrote specifically to help students understand math’s true purpose…and to praise the Creator of all as they study. After all, math applies because Jesus is upholding all things by the power of His Word (Hebrews 1:3) in such a predictable way that we can describe it mathematically! Math, when properly taught, should encourage us to trust Him more and more.

Have a specific math topic you’d like to know the “why” of? Leave it as a comment!

## Why Do I Have to Learn That?

I recently looked at various college math materials, and they reminded me why so many students hate math. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought math was a meaningless set of rules I had to memorize—a subject designed to give me a headache.

However, nothing could be further from the truth! While math does have a lot of rules, there’s a purpose to it! Those rules help us describe and explore God’s creation.

As one example, consider the branching pattern of trees. Did you know that math helps us describe it? Well, it does! Fractal geometry helps us describe the branching pattern of trees, as well as many other aspects of God’s creation. (To learn more, check out the blog post I recently wrote about fractal geometry and trees over on the Creation Club website.)

Many students grow up thinking they hate math because they’ve never really been taught what math is. They’ve not seen it as a practical tool that helps us explore God’s creation and complete the tasks He’s given us to do.

If you have a student(s) that dislike math, try stepping back from the mechanics for a bit and showing math in action. Help them understand why what they’re learning matters. If you need some ideas, check out the sample pages from Revealing Arithmetic, Principles of Mathematics 1, and Principles of Mathematics 2. While the samples are designed to give you a flavor for the materials, some of the ideas can be used on their own with students even if you don’t purchase the materials.

Along those lines, here’s a simple challenge: make a list this week with your student(s) of all the ways you see math used (including simple ways, such as the numbers on a clock or microwave). You both might be surprised.

Need help teaching students math with a purpose?
Check out the Principles of Mathematics curriculum!

We just started using Principles of Mathematics 1 with our 7th grader. This particular 7th grades despises math. The previous years have been filled with tears, frustration and always asking the question “why do we need math?”. After hours and hours of searching, I found Masterbooks and Principles of Mathematics. I picked it because IT EXPLAINS WHY WE DO MATH!!! YAY!!! Our 7th grader was skeptical at first but after just a couple days he CHOSE to switch from the year schedule to the accelerated schedule. Woo Hoo! He enjoys doing math. So thankful!

## Back-to-School Math Encouragement and Free Resources

It’s the time of year again where many of you may be heading back to school after a summer break.

Here are some free resources to help encourage/equip you to teach math from a biblical worldview as you go.

• Free Transforming Math Video – Watch this 18-minute video to get a glimpse into how biblical principles really can transform math, making it an exciting exploration of God’s creation. When you sign up for the video, you’ll also get a free read-aloud story that illustrates how often we really do use numbers, and a series of emails with other information and reminders to help you teach from a biblical worldview.
• Math, Lightning, & Thunder – I recently blogged over on The Creation Club about how we can use math to help us approximate the distance to a lightning strike. Even a summer thunderstorm gives us an opportunity to explore God’s creation and marvel at God’s greatness (after all, He’s the one who makes the lightening and brings forth the wind – see Jeremiah 51:16).
• Upcoming Articles – I have articles coming out this fall/winter in both the Old Schoolhouse Magazine and Homeschool Enrichment. If you get either of those magazines, be sure to take a look.
• Sample Lessons – Watch a free preview of a lesson on place value, one on fractions, and one on lines and angles.
Note: If you’ve found these resources helpful, please share with a friend.

## Math All Around: Garden Hoses and Circumferences

Garden hoses–they’re a common summer sight.

But have you ever wondered whether your hose would reach the flower bed on the other side of the driveway…and wanted to find the answer without having to unwind the hose?

Assuming your hose is wound up in circles, you can use math to find the approximate length of the hose, which would tell you if it’s worth trying to reach that flower bed.

First, measure the diameter of (or the distance across) each of the circles the hose is wound in (they may not all be exactly the same, but we’re looking for a rough idea here).

If the diameter of each circle is about 2 ft, then the circumference of each circle is approximately 3 x 2 ft, or 6 ft, as the circumference equals pi (which we’re rounding to 3 to make the math easier to do in our head) times the diameter.

Circumference = pi x diameter

Circumference = 3 x 2 ft = 6 ft

This means that every time the hose is wound into a circle, it takes about 6 ft of hose.

Now we can count how many times the hose is wound into a circle and multiply that by 6 ft to find the length of hose. If the hose is wound into 10 circles, then we’d know there’s about 10 x 6, or 60 ft, of hose.

Now of course, we’re only approximating the length of the hose. The circles a hose is wound into are likely not all exactly the same size. And we approximated pi to 3, when it’s really a number that begins 3.14 and continues on and on. But often, getting an approximate answer is all we really need. It can give us an idea of whether a hose will extend to that distant flower bed…or let us know about what size hose we’d need to buy to replace it.

Understanding the relationship between the diameter and circumference of a circle applies in more places than you might initially think! In fact, this example was inspired by a man who shared how he uses math on his construction job to estimate the amount of material left on a roll. Remember that math is a tool we can use to help us describe God’s creation and complete the tasks He’s given us to do.

Imagine learning math in connection with real-life applications…all while building a biblical worldview!

Imagine if students really understood algebra and why they needed to learn it.

Well, now they can! Katherine’s newest curriculum covers the core concepts of algebra in a way that leaves students understanding why they’re learning what they’re learning and how it points to the Lord.

Watch the short video to learn more.

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## Geometry and Sounding Boards

Did you ever wonder how sound was projected before the days of microphones? I found it fascinating to learn at a historical church that sometimes they used “sounding boards” like the one shown here. Sound waves would bounce off this sounding board at different angles, causing the preacher’s voice to reach different parts of the church.

Room acoustics is a fascinating example of geometry in action. And it’s all possible due to the underlying order God has placed within sounds. You see, sound waves reflect off surfaces in a consistent fashion, making it possible to design buildings to reflect sounds where we want them to go.

P.S. The sounding board shown is from the church George Washington attended (Christ Church in Alexandria, VA). Here’s a link to a prayer Washington wrote for our nation and his inaugural address, both of which are filled with reminders of God’s sovereignty.

(For more examples of angles in action, see Book 1 of Principles of Mathematics: A Biblical Worldview Curriculum.)

## Snowflake Math

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.

To start with, we can observe that the general shape of each flake is approximately the same. Snowflakes can be described by the six-sided shape we refer to as a hexagon.

Looking at the structure of water molecules and the angles (more math) there gives us a glimpse into why hexagons are formed.

Yet despite being the same shape, you’re not likely to find two identical snowflakes. What a wondrous variety God’s hid within snow!

We could also talk about the symmetry and patterns in snowflakes (more math concepts). And if we wanted to expand beyond the flakes themselves, we could talk about the temperature at which water freezes (which we describe using a number), at the altitudes of different types of clouds (which we use numbers to describe), etc.

Snowflakes are an example of how we use math to describe God’s creation…and in the process see His incredible design!

“Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail, Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?” Job 38:22-23

“Then Job answered the Lord, and said, I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:1-6