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!

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Math Blog: The Learning Process (Plus New Videos)

I recently watched a video on New Year’s resolutions that got me.

In the video, a little girl pointed out that if she wanted to ride a bike, it took more than a resolution. It took a willingness to fall and try again and again.

That illustration seemed to capture very well the learning process. It’s easy to start the new year with resolutions of how much better things will be (or how much better math class will be), but the reality of getting there will involve taking steps…and being willing to get back up when we fall.

As students try to improve problem-solving skills and stretch themselves, they will likely get problems wrong, just as we will fall off a bike when learning to ride. It’s part of the learning process. And as you try to teach math from a biblical worldview, you will likely fall short of what you hoped. Make sure you’re striving for the right goals–for God’s goals. But if you are, don’t give up–get back on that bike 🙂


New Videos
For the last several months, I’ve been working on an eCourse supplement to go alongside Book 2 of Principles of Mathematics…and it’s now finished! In the videos, I present the various concepts step-by-step. Whether you’re using the Principles of Mathematics program or not, feel free to check out some of the sample videos. I’ve put together a page with more information about the video eCourse.

 


Feedback
This feedback made my day yesterday.

“Thanks again. We love this book – it’s the first year in about the last 8 years that we haven’t had tears in our math time with this child, and she loves seeing the connections in math to real things that God created.” – Debby [referring to Principles of Mathematics: Book 1]

The Grand Canyon, Finding Joy in Math, and New Video Supplement

I wanted to quickly share a couple of articles I’ve recently had published. I hope they encourage you in your math journey and remind you to find joy in math as you praise the Creator and see math as a way of exploring God’s handiwork and completing the tasks He’s given you to do. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, and please feel free to share these with your friends.

grand-canyon
Math, Assumptions, Dating Methods, and the Grand Canyon

On a recent trip to the Grand Canyon, I was reminded of how misunderstood dating methods have become. We hear dates quoted as fact so often that they’re held up as mathematical fact. Few understand that the answer to a math problem is only as accurate as the starting information—and that in the case of dating methods, that starting information is based on unverifiable assumptions.

finding-joy-in-math
Finding Joy in Math
If the words “joy” and “math” don’t seem to go together in your mind, please take a look at this article I wrote for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. Math transforms when we look at it from a biblical worldview.


Principles of Mathematics eCourse
New Video Supplement

The video supplement for Book 2 of Principles of Mathematics is now available to start (I expect it to be completely finished in early 2017).

Why Do I Have to Learn That?

Photo credit: Ignacio Sanz via Visual hunt / CC BY-SA

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.


Principles of Mathematics

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

Transforming Math

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.
    Transforming Math
  • 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).

circle-hose

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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Math eCourse Coming Soon

Principles of Mathematics eCourse

Well, it’s finally public: I’m working on an eCourse to go alongside Principles of Mathematics: Book 1.

The eCourse will feature a short video to go with every lesson in the textbook. The videos will walk through the material covered in the curriculum, making it a perfect supplement for auditory or visual learners, or any student who needs a little more guidance in math.

Anyway, this video offers a very short overview!

Please leave a comment with your thoughts. The eCourse is also now available for preorder at a special price of $49.99. This price will grant access to the eCourse for the 2016-2017 school year.

[thrive_text_block color=”light” headline=”Bonus: Color, Light, and Math”] I recently posted a blog about Color, Math, & Light over on The Creation Club website. Hope you enjoy! Color, Light, and Math[/thrive_text_block]

 

 

 

Stuck in Math?

Math Tutoring

Math TutoringDo you have a child who’s frustrated in math? Unsure where to go next?

I’m excited to announce that, in addition to the math resources in the store, I’m now offering online math tutoring for elementary through Algebra 2. My goal is to quickly get students unstuck, to help them see the concepts as a useful tool to describe God’s creation, and to equip them to work through problems on their own again.

As a special introductory offer, hour-long tutoring sessions are only $25 (half off the normal rate). There’s no ongoing commitment–attend however few or many sessions you need.

Learn more and sign up for a math tutoring session.

(Please share with any friends you know who might be blessed by this.)

Geometry and Sounding Boards

Sounding Boards

Sounding BoardsDid 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.)