Education is all about God. He cannot be kept in the “Religious Studies” box of a school’s curriculum because he keeps popping up everywhere. Even in a math lesson. Because all of creation was designed as a massive project of self-disclosure: everything that exists has been made to display his glory and character in some way. As we explore Mathematics, we are exploring the nature of God and the way that he rules over the universe. We are learning one of his languages, and it is a language whose entire vocabulary speaks of him.
In the Bible, the very first mathematical principle is the measurement of time. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and the earth was without form and void.” There’s a starting point and a sequence. At the beginning there is nothing but void: empty blankness as God puts a big “zero” at the start of his number line. “And there evening and there was morning, the first day”. God used an ordinal number, a number that shows order in a given series, to express this measurement of time. It denotes the character of the day (a defined period of time).
So already God has made himself known. The time line is his. He establishes the standard by which all is being measured. Measurement. Standards. It all points to the One who alone stands as Judge of all that he has created. It is measured in relation to His Son – the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. The unfolding series of days points toward a day when time will come to an end, when the measurement of time will be complete. As soon as we start to count, we are confronted with a thinly veiled mystery, what William Gairdner describes (in The Book of Absolutes, p.89) as “the Pythagorean idea that the mathematical numbers that explain and control the universe are themselves the mental activity of God.”
So all that an elementary school student needs to know about Math is found in Genesis 1 and, to those who have ears to hear, all of it speaks of God. He divided the light from the darkness – the first division. He created the sun and moon, one being greater than the other: the creation of inequality. He gave living creatures the instruction to multiply: the first multiplication. And he declared a week to be complete when made up of seven equal parts: fractions of a whole.
He is precise and orderly, as immense as infinity yet knowable in details. As Paul puts it, “His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made” (Rom 1:20). What better way to start the day in a Christian school than with a math class which in turn becomes a worship time!
Some of these ideas were developed by Susan Green, a former Math teacher at The King’s School, as part of our endeavour to relate an entire curriculum to the Word of God. For more on curriculum from a biblical perspective, see “What do you Learn in School?”.