Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Four Maths: Not Chaos but Order

I have always been drawn to literature and writing. I love how words play with each other to create an environment of truth, goodness, and beauty. This trio of virtues was called the triumvirate by the Ancient Greeks and is at the heart of Classical Education.
Even though I find myself at home with words, this past year, I’ve fallen in love with math. I find it a great surprise. I am confident my high school geometry teacher would also be surprised.
Although I’m getting ready for kindergarten next fall, currently I work for a few hours each day with forth and fifth grade math students. In teaching them, I’ve been in awe with the triumvirate math reveals... the octopus-tentacles of how everything is connected, the mirror images, the puzzles, the nity-gritty details... the constant discoveries.
One of my fifth graders wrestled with the distributive property this week. Unless you’ve been around a math classroom lately, you might have forgotten what the distributive property is, so I’ll remind you.
What you’re doing here is multiplying 27 by three. My guess is that even if you don’t know what the distributive property is, you do it all the time. Unless you are a math wiz, if you see 3x27, you think 20x3=60 and 7x3=21. 60+21=81. Ta-da! You have successfully completed the distributive property! ... and so did my student. Whoo-hoooo!
Just look at what you’ve experienced in the process... there is truth that a certain number multiplied by certain number equals a certain number. There is goodness in solving something, in coming up with an answer and having to think through it. And there is beauty in seeing how something big is built by little pieces.
Be still my heart.
And let’s do some math. But, let’s not stop with numbers. Let’s look at math from the four angles of the Mathematical Humanities. Classical Education swims in these and through them answers these questions:
  • Number Sense: How do numbers work and what do they mean?
  • Geometry: How do shapes, spaces, and things physically fit together?
  • Music: How does time, rhythm, and motion create beauty?
  • Astronomy: Where is our place in the universe?
As you can see, in Classical Education, math becomes a holistic view of figuring out the world around us and how God reveals Himself through it.
Math is true. 2+2=4. That’s the deal. Our kids need that. I hope that they find it refreshing and even energizing. It is good. The self-discipline, the accuracy, the working towards an answer makes us better. And then there’s the beauty. The stars, Puccini, the stunning high-rise... the fact that division and multiplication are opposites... all pointing to a Creator God who put order into chaos.

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