“Biblical Math” May Not Really Mean Biblical

I was recently reminded of the fact that many people use the term “biblical math” to mean something very different than I do when I use it. So I thought it might be beneficial to take a look at some different ways the term has been used.

Many use the term “biblical math” to refer to using math to unlock some sort of hidden code within the Bible. In fact, there have been numerous books written on this topic. Each one claims to have unraveled a mystery within the Bible’s pages.

If you’ve ever been intrigued by any sort of “biblical numerical code,” I’d encourage you to read the article linked to below by James Nickel. I found this article incredibly helpful in understanding why I felt such a caution and uneasiness in my spirit every time I read anything about these hidden codes. Mr. Nickel explains how these “hidden” codes really have Gnostic roots and are a distortion of the gospel of Christ and the Word of God.

http://www.biblicalchristianworldview.net/Mathematical-Circles/behindBibleCode.pdf

Although many people attempt to use these codes to defend the authority of the Bible or to proclaim some other truth, the whole idea of finding some sort of “hidden” revelation is not true and is actually very dangerous. God’s truth is available to all, not just those who can crack a special code. There’s a harmful elitism and mysticism in saying we need some sort of special knowledge to understand part of God’s message to us. God warns that He has hidden things from the wise and revealed them to babes (Luke 10:21). We’re to use the Bible to help us understand math, not use math to unlock the mysteries of the Bible. God has given us His Spirit, note a code, to help us understand His Word.

Other people use the term “biblical math” to refer to a curriculum that contains Bible verses and Christian morals. Yet although the student is being taught a biblical perspective on morality and learning biblical truth, he’s not necessarily being taught how to look at math itself from a biblical perspective.

I would define the term “biblical math” as an approach to math that leaves the student with an understanding of how math itself is viewed from a biblical worldview. The Bible gives us principles that impact the way we view and approach all aspects of life, including math. God is the creator and sustainer of all things and is a consistent, faithful God; hence, we can expect the universe to be consistent. Man is created in the image of God; hence, we’re able to observe the consistent way God governs all things and record that using math. Man is fallen; hence, we are prone to error and cannot place our faith in our own reason. God gave us the responsibility to work and “subdue” the earth; hence, God has given us math as a useful tool to help us with the tasks He has given us.

The above statements are just a few (and are simplified for the sake of space) of the ways the Bible’s principles should impact the way we approach math. When we take these and other principles and build our approach to math off of them, it completely transforms math from a meaningless exercise to something both meaningful and useful—and something that, above all, points us to the Creator (see Beyond Numbers).

I hope the above explorations of “biblical math” help clarify things a little for you. It’s amazing how differently a phrase can be applied, isn’t it? : )

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Free Workshop Invite, Book Update, Math Information Online

Things have been piling up to post, so this post will contain quite a few different things.

Free Workshop
First off, I wanted to invite you all to attend a workshop this afternoon (Tuesday, March 18, 2008) at 1:00 p.m. CST I’ll be giving on teaching math biblically. You can attend right from your computers–and it’s free! The workshop is being done through Cindy Rushton’s Ultimate Homeschool Expo as one of their free, pre-conference preview chats. The chat will be archived and available after the conference begins to attendees, but it’s only open to everyone this afternoon. To join, follow the instructions at the bottom of this post. (I apologize for the late notice.)

Math Book Update
Next, after several drafts and a name change, my math book is actually nearing completion! The book is now titled Revealing Arithmetic, and serves as a guide for teaching arithmetic concepts from a biblical worldview. Revealing Arithmetic will walk through teaching basic arithmetic concepts from counting clear through long division, offering an overview, example presentation, reinforcement ideas, and much more. Thank you all for your continual prayers.

Math Information Online
We recently posted an article adapted from Beyond Numbers to our site and reorganized some other math information. I hope you enjoy!

I also recently found an article on biblical math online I think you some of you might find helpful. Vern S. Poythress helpful, although more intellectual, essay titled, “A Biblical View of Mathematics” is available online at www.frame-poythress.org/poythress_articles/1976Biblical.htm.

Please Note: I’ve not had a chance to look at any of the other essays on this site or by Poythress to know their merit or theological content. I mention this particular article because it looked helpful.

Instructions for Joining the Workshop (from Cindy Rushton)
We provide the software download-free. Here is the link:

http://www.cindyrushton.com/Conference.exe

Click to begin download or copy/paste into your internet browser and click ENTER. It will only take a few minutes to download into your computer, but you want to do it ahead of time so you don’t miss a minute in the Conference Room. After it is downloaded on your computer, it will set up an icon on your desktop that says CONFERENCE. Then, you will only have to click it to open up the room. Here are your instructions from there:

When you are ready to enter, you will enter your NAME or EMAIL ADDRESS in the first blank.

Add the following information when prompted:

Name of Room: Talk-a-Latte

Password: letschat (for Preview Chats)

Remember…your password is different for chats and other classes. It only works for the room when the room is open for the study.

Table Math

“How many math concepts could you teach using just the objects on this table?”

The question came from my brother. We had just finished eating dinner, and I was brainstorming with him about some decisions I needed to make regarding the layout and content of Unveiling Math

I looked at the objects on the table—our leftover food and an assortment of dirty dishes. These were hardly objects one would ordinarily think to use to teach math concepts.

Yet as I began to answer the question, I realized that one could really teach nearly every math concept using just the items on that table. Addition, a method of recording the way God causes objects to add together can be demonstrated by “adding” the forks or cups on the table! Subtraction, multiplication, and division could be taught in a similar fashion by subtracting, multiplying (adding in sets), or dividing (splitting up) the silverware or plates. Fractions could be presented as one way of recording partial quantities by cutting up the left over food and demonstrating how each part could be represented. Decimals would follow in a similar line. The table itself presented the perfect springboard for presenting shapes and geometry. Since algebra is just a way of generalizing about quantities, we could really use an a or an x to represent the various objects on the table—or about the height of the table. Economics and statistics, as well as linear graphing and calculus, would come into play if we began to talk about the process of growing the food and selling it to the restaurant… 

I finally had to stop myself in amazement. Who would have thought that just a simple dinner table could prove the perfect classroom?

The Masterpiece in Math

The other day, I had an opportunity to look at an Impressionist painting. Up close, the painting looked like globs of paint on a canvas. But from a distance, those very strokes of paint transformed into boats, shadows, and buildings—objects that simply would get mistaken for meaningless swirls of color unless the viewer took the time to step back and look at the big picture. Then, and only then, would he see a masterpiece.

As you teach math to your child, remember to step back and behold God’s masterpiece. Don’t get so lost in all the mechanics of writing and solving problems that you forget their purpose. Just like the brush strokes in a painting, they’re just the means by which we attempt to record on paper the beautiful and faithful way God holds this universe together. There is a beautiful masterpiece to behold in math.

Oh, no! I’m Out of Ideas/Fall Suggestions

Have you ever looked at your child’s math lesson and thought, I have no clue how to teach this. I’m clean out of ideas? If so, you’re not alone. We all face times when we’re simply not sure what to do or how to present something.

A few weeks ago, I knew I needed to write a blog entry on this blog, but I just couldn’t think of anything helpful to say. After a staring at my monitor blankly for a little while, I got up and headed out on a walk. While I walked, I prayed. What was something fall-related parents could do with their children? A leaf just starting to turn colors caught my eye. I wonder if there’s any way to integrate math with the falling leaves? I wondered.

Coming home, I decided to do a little search online on “changing leaves.” I later refined the search to “leaves math.” I found a wide variety of websites offering suggestions for ways to use leaves and math. Although I didn’t like many of the ideas as they were, they inspired other ideas.

For example, http://content.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=11901 had some interesting facts about leaves, such as that maple trees lose about 600,000 leaves each fall! I thought of how fun it would be to have a child try to count all the leaves that fall in your yard, pointing out that while this is impossible for man it’s not impossible for God. Surely the God who calls each star by name and knows the number of hairs on every person’s head also knows the number of leaves that are on (and falling off) each tree. He is truly MUCH greater than us!!!

In the end, other ideas came, and I didn’t even end up using my leaf idea for my blog. As I hit the post button on my finished blog entry, I thanked the Lord for giving me the ideas that I needed.

If you’re feeling out of ideas, I’d encourage you to take heart. God has the ideas you need. Seek Him. Ask Him. And watch Him give you the inspiration you need in His timing and way.

P.S. If you live in a part of the world where the leaves are changing colors, you may want to do your own search for “leaves math.” Then head out and enjoy the fall weather while you teach your children to use math to explore God’s creation!

Going Back to the Source

I had read so many works on math’s history that I thought for sure I had learned all I needed to learn. But as I was trying to finalize a few concepts late last week, I realized that I needed to do more research. I needed to go back and read the original writings of antiquity so I could see for myself what I’d read so many summaries about.

Fortunately, we live ten minutes from a university, so I was able to pack up my computer and head to the university library. Still, finding original works wasn’t easy, but as I got my hands on a few mathematic source books I felt well rewarded. There was something special about seeing those actual writings. The Lord also used the experience to remind me of a spiritual principle.

Just like I had nearly settled for summaries, we’re often tempted to settle for intellectual knowledge or summaries others make of God’s truths. Yet we continually need to go back to the Source–God Himself. God is the true Source of knowledge in all areas. There’s no substitute for hearing directly from Him in His Word.

In my past couple of blogs, I’ve tried to offer some practical resources to help you teaching math biblically, and I’ll try to keep posting practical ideas as I can. But it’s my prayer that you will keep going back to the Source yourself so that God Himself can give you the ideas and inspiration you need. There’s such a joy in letting Him teach us–in letting Him step in where we thought all was hopeless. As the Creator and Sustainer of all the order around us, His ideas and wisdom are infinite! What a wonderful privilege we have to keep going back to the ultimate Source.

Rejoicing in His Care,

Katherine

P.S. As you may have picked up on in this post, I’ve been spending some time lately finishing up some research for Unveiling Numbers. I wanted to ask you all to pray. There is a LOT of finalization of concepts and decisions that still need made in order to get it off to the editor. Please pray that I’ll have the wisdom and discipline to both know what needs done and to get it done.