Mathematics from a Biblical Perspective

Bible Mathematics

“The difference in the classroom instruction of a Christian educator and that of a secular educator should be more than just prayer at the beginning of class.” I remember hearing this statement on my first day of teacher in-service before my first year of teaching. Our administrator was trying to emphasize the point that “all truth is God’s truth,” and that we need to teach Biblical principles as we teach our subject matter.
Frankly, I have had difficulty linking a Biblical principle to every mathematical concept that I have taught. I have asked the Lord to open my eyes to opportunities for showing His glory in the study of math. I feel that sharing Christ in my content area, like teaching, is a journey. I would like to share a few ideas from my “journey.”
First, an understanding of 3-dimensional geometry can give us perspective as we read Genesis 6:15 and Revelation 21:16. We realize the immensity of Noah’s Ark (450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high) and of the New Jerusalem (1400 miles wide, long, and high). We can also emphasize God’s precision in the blueprint for the ark and His majestic creativity in the design of the New Jerusalem.
A second example is making a simple reference to Proverbs 17:10 when introducing the study of inequalities. The writer of proverbs gives value to one reproof of a wise man that is greater than one hundred lashes to a fool. Many other examples are available, including Judges 16:30, Luke 15:7, and John 12:43.
Third, we can use a lesson on sequences as an opportunity to talk about the Fibonacci sequence. There is a 4-minute video available at http://disclose.tv/action/viewvideo/67897/Fibonacci_numbers___The_Fingerprint_of_God. This video portrays our God as one who values order and as one Who has repeatedly left a clear identifying mark on creation. I am amazed at how often this sequence appears.
Fourth, Jesus’ parable of the debtor from Matthew 18:21-34 can be used as an illustration of ratios, proportions, and unit conversion. Bible scholars believe that 1 talent = 75 pounds of gold (http://www.sundayschoolresources.com/biblestoryactivities2.htm). Then, 10000 talents = 750000 pounds of gold, which is 12000000 ounces. Recently, gold was valued at $1776 per ounce; so in today’s figures, 12000000 ounces would equal $21,312,000,000. Certainly, this parable teaches a valuable lesson on forgiving one another, but it should also remind us that God has made provision for us to be forgiven from a sin debt that we could never repay.
Finally, I would like to share some thoughts from the book Mathematics: Is God Silent?, by James Nickel (Ross House Books, 2001):
“Is there a connection between mathematics and evangelism? It has been shown that non-numerical mathematical methods such as set theory, modern abstract algebra, topology, and mathematical logic can be applied to the task of Bible translation. These mathematical formulations are powerful enough to deal with the structured relationships found in the complexity of linguistic structures.” (277-278)
We should continuoually evaluate ourselves, not just in how we teach our content, but in how we link math and the Bible. May our journey as Christian math teachers center on seeking God in our discipline!
I welcome any comments you may have regarding this article, as well as any ideas you have used in your classroom.

  • AOats33

    I think this is a great concept.  At the school where I am currently teaching, we try to Biblically integrate in all classrooms.  Each department has come up with a a list of Biblical principles that can be broadly applied to its area of study.  Then the teachers can talk about one of these broad areas (and sometimes drill more specifically into one of those broad areas for certain lessons).

    Our mathematical Biblical principles are as follows:

    1.  God is a God of order, in that in every mathematical procedure we must follow a fixed order of operations.
    2.  God is a God of precision, as evidenced by the exactness of measurements and solutions.
    3.  God’s unchangeableness and dependability are reflected in the certainty of mathematical properties and procedures.
    4.  God is an infinite God reflected in the infinitude of number sets, space, and functions.
    5.  Creation shows God’s use of mathematical concepts to teach about His nature.
    6.  Mankind has the God-given ability to discover what God has already ordained and put in place.
    7.  Mankind has the God-given wisdom and ability to solve complex problems.

    Some of my uses include talking about exact answers in Geometry (leaving an answer in terms of pi or a square root rather than using rounded decimals) or in AP Calculus (where the test requires all answers to be accurate to a minimum of 3 decimal places). In a class like Discrete Math, we talk about infinite sets and how infinite sets can be different sizes (comparing the set of all integers to the set of even integers for example), and how there are actually an infinite amount of sizes of infinite sets. There are many applications of math in creation – from Fibonacci numbers to the Golden Ratio. Another use is talking about the difference between the “discovery” of Calculus or the “invention” of Calculus. From my view, I believe we discovered Calculus since God had already ordained and put the concepts in place. I also talk in both Calculus and Geometry about how we have the ability to solve complex problems with limited information (the example of Eratosthenes calculating the circumference of the Earth about 200- 250 years before Christ just using parallel lines and the sun’s rays is a great example.

    These are some of the ways we integrate in our school and I would love to hear examples from other teachers as well.

    • Phil Price

      Thank you for the reply, Andy, these are good thoughts.  I appreciate your comments and your willingness to share your ideas!  I like the departmental principles and the “invention” versus “discovery” statement.