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Biblical perspectives of mathematics

By John Hay, author of the Building on the Rock elementary worldview and Bible survey curriculum produced by Summit Ministries.

Biblical integration of curriculum—interpreting the Biblical perspectives of mathematics>

Contents

Biblical concepts/principles (more...)
Reflections of God in mathematics (more...)
Basic values and norms related to mathematics (more...)
Teaching distinctives of a Christian perspective of mathematics (more...)
Attitudes and skills to be manifested in students from a study of mathematics (more...)
Points of conflict with secular approaches to the teaching of mathematics (more...)
Teaching strategies that can help communicate the Biblical perspective of mathematics (more...)
Bibliography (more...)

Biblical concepts/principles

  • Mathematical structure, i.e., the spatial and quantitative, is an intrinsic characteristic of the creative works of God. (Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31; 2:2, 3; Psalm 147:4; Isaiah 40:26; Jeremiah 31:37)
  • Mathematical studies reveal the structure of the universe, thus pointing to an intelligent design and an omniscient Creator. (Psalm 19:1)
  • The ability to see and describe the world in mathematical constructs is a gift of God to man. (Job 32:8, 9; 1 Corinthians 2:14-16)
  • Biblical references that refer to mathematical concepts, i.e., space and quantity, demonstrate that God, is concerned with consistency and precision and that mathematics is an integral part of creation. (Genesis 6:14-16; Exodus 25:8-9,40; 26:30; 27:8)
  • Mathematical studies reveal the structure of the universe and thus reveal the character and attributes of God. (Psalm 19:1-4; Romans 1:19-20; Psalm 147:1, 5; Psalm 50:6; Jeremiah 31:35-37)
  • Mathematical studies reveal the structure of the universe and instill an awe and appreciation of the works of God in creation. (Psalm 8:3-9; Jeremiah 33:22; Colossians 1:16, 17; Psalm 139:14; Romans 11: 33-34)

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Reflections of God in mathematics

As an image bearer of God, man, through finite mathematical reasoning, reflects the infinite wisdom of his Creator.

The aesthetic considerations in mathematics reflect the character of God; man, like God, desires that the mathematical constructs be aesthetically pleasing.

The mathematical complexity, harmony and precision of the created order demonstrate the infinite wisdom of God.

Basic values and norms related to mathematics

A Biblical perspective of mathematics focuses on the following values:

  • Accuracy
  • Precision
  • Orderliness
  • Diligence
  • Creativity
  • Endurance
  • Punctuality
  • Perseverance
  • Wonder and awe
  • Humility
  • Thoroughness
  • Responsible use of mathematics

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Teaching distinctives of a Christian perspective of mathematics

The Christian teaching of mathematics:

  • Emphasizes that math’s two key meanings, discrete quantity and continuous space, are two aspects of God’s created reality, the quantitative and the spatial.
  • Emphasizes faith in the continuing validity of mathematical laws required in doing and using math. It emphasizes that such laws are ordained by God and sustain the basic order and structure of the universe.
  • Includes the history of mathematics in order to show how mathematics has contributed to cultural development and how intuition and value judgments affect its development.
  • Emphasizes that the teaching and learning of mathematics is not a neutral activity, but rather reveals the worldview of those involved in these processes.
  • Values the use of cooperative, creative and exploratory approaches to mathematical learning and teaching as opposed to the current trends which value individual, reproductive and formal approaches.
  • Encourages the application of mathematics in the service of society, including the exploration of ethics and values related to such application.
  • Emphasizes that the source of wisdom and knowledge is the Lord and that a keen mind is a gift from God.
  • Emphasizes the evidence of purposeful design in the universe and strives, through the teaching and learning process, to show how mathematics reveals God.
  • Strives to reinforce the values of diligence, honesty, precision and perseverance as students endeavor to understand and discover mathematical concepts.
  • Is not bound to an either-or position with regards to teaching methodology, but lays solid foundations with reference to both the why and how of mathematics.
  • Philosophically, argues that arithmetical truths can only be sustained within the framework of a worldview that acknowledges an ultimate metaphysical plurality and unity in the world.
  • Sees math, not as a means to deny God and a created cosmos, but rather as a means whereby man can understand God’s design and establish his call of stewardship over creation.

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Attitudes and skills to be manifested in students from a study of mathematics

Through a study of mathematics, students will:

  • Deepen their understanding of God and creation and of how math helps them fulfill their calling.
  • Improve their own mental clarity, enabling them to think more like God.
  • Improve their ability of logic, lessening the chances of their falling prey to non-Biblical presuppositions.
  • Develop an appreciation for correctness of procedure and accuracy and develop an attitude of honesty as applied to all dimensions of life.
  • Learn perseverance in difficult tasks.
  • Become aware of their own limitations, recognizing that there are many truths in the physical realms that are beyond their understanding.
  • Learn to transfer the habit of proceeding by principles to their moral and spiritual lives.
  • Use their developed skills in vocational service to man and for the glory of God.

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Points of conflict with secular approaches to the teaching of mathematics

The Christian teaching of mathematics rejects:

  • That man creates mathematical truth rather than discovering it to be inherent within the created order.
  • The concept of neutrality in mathematics, stressing that man approaches the study of mathematics with pre-suppositions, values and even biases.
  • The subjective approach to mathematics that affirms that certain mathematical ideas have no real existence in themselves, apart from the human mind.

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Teaching strategies that can help communicate the Biblical perspective of mathematics

Study how math reveals the attributes of God.

Study the history of weights and measures in the Bible.

Study the use of the numbers 7, 11, 40 in the Bible.

Study the biography of Christian mathematicians.

Analyze the various worldviews of mathematicians and how these views are used to interpret a seemingly neutral and fixed discipline.

Discuss the conflict of various worldviews with traditional mathematics, i.e., Hinduism with its pantheistic view that all is one.

Discuss the implications of the philosophical position that claims mathem:1tics has no real existence in itself, but only as created by the mind of man.

Discuss the ethical implications related to the application of mathematica1 principles and concepts.

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Bibliography

Perspectives have been compiled from the following resources, each of which contributes much to the concept of the Biblical integration of school subjects.

Chadwick, Ronald. 1990. Christian School Curriculum: An Integrated Approach. Winona Lake, IN.: BMH Books.
Haycock, Ruth. 1980. Bible Truth for School Subjects. Colorado Springs, CO.: Association of Christian Schools International.
Horton, Ronald, editor. 1992. Christian Education: Its Mandate and Mission. Greenville, SC.: Bob Jones University Press.
Van Brummelen, Harro. 1994. Steppingstones to Curriculum: A Biblical Path. Seattle, WA: Alta Vista College Press.

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