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Education | 5 Minutes

Why Study Mathematics? | Part 3 of 3

Damian Haarhoff Written by Damian Haarhoff
Why Study Mathematics? | Part 3 of 3

In Part 2, we learned how mathematics makes us better players out there in the game of life - how it conditions us to be better thinkers and problem solvers.  But beware . . . there is an enemy that lurks.  Part 3 will help you better understand this enemy, and provide you with weapons for the battle.  Read on . . . 

Before we leave the gym we came to in Part 2, I want you to stop and look around for just a moment.  You will see a variety of other people who have come here for a variety of reasons.  Some don’t particularly enjoy working out, but they discipline themselves because they know that it is good for them and that it benefits them in the long run.  For many, the pain is worth the overall increase in health and feeling of well-being that it brings.  Others thoroughly enjoy working out.  Either way, it doesn’t change the fact that it is hard work.   It takes commitment, effort and determination.  And so it is with mathematics.  As fallen creatures, we gravitate towards the path of least resistance – to that which is easy and convenient.  Just as we can be physically and spiritually lazy, we can also be academically lazy.  

That is why mathematics and even just school in general is such a battle for some.  It is no wonder that many students giggle and nod when they see a meme out there that says MATH actually stands for “Mental Abuse To Humans!” Our minds want to pull the covers up and sleep in, but Sergeant Math comes marching in bright and early and yells for us to get up and get running!  Mathematics can be a very challenging and difficult subject at times, but it is good for us.  It exhorts us to be diligent and to be disciplined.  It teaches us to practice, to be patient and to persevere.  It teaches us to be careful, thoughtful, organized and meticulous.  As sinners, we have fallen in every area, including academically.  As Christians, we are being conformed to the image of Him Who not only is the author of every subject, but is also perfect in every subject.  We must therefore strive to allow mathematics and education in general to do its work of sanctification in our thinking and in our reasoning.  

For me personally, mathematics is a magical land of patterns, puzzles, mystery and adventure that calls for clever and creative thinking.  Who doesn’t like to crack the code, solve a puzzle, or figure out a mystery?  In factoring a trinomial, we are carefully unraveling a multiplication mystery by looking for that perfect pair of numbers whose product is the last term and whose sum is the middle term.  Let’s work backwards and see if we can figure this out!  Solving equations is a daring and dangerous adventure where princess “x” has been captured and is trapped in a plethora of parenthetical prisons. Armed with the weapons of inverse operations, I must fight the enemies along the way, using each weapon appropriately and conquering each enemy until I can rescue the princess “x” and bring her safely to the other side of the equal sign.  

When viewed this way, mathematics becomes a truly exciting and enjoyable experience!  Stop fretting so much that you don’t “get it.”  If this be the case, “gird up your loins” as the apostle Paul would say, mount your horse, draw your sword and embrace the challenge.  Be brave.  Go forth and conquer.  When you return, a celebration awaits at the castle . . . a celebration of victory, of accomplishment, of triumph . . . along with that deep and abiding satisfaction of a successful conquest!  I finally got it!

So dear students, perhaps it is time for some of you to extend a hand to a subject that is not the enemy and never has been – to make peace with a subject that is and always has been a mentor, a friend, and a faithful traveling companion in every civilization and culture since the dawn of time.  Perhaps we need to realize that our thoughts and attitudes regarding mathematics and even education in general as “boring” and “irrelevant” have simply been another manifestation of our sinful nature and sinful thinking.  Ultimately it comes down to this.  God is the author of mathematics.  His glory is revealed in its depth, complexity and wonder.  

He has given it as a gift to mankind – both for its ability to teach us how to think and how to persevere in problem solving and for its practical use in our every day world.  Whether or not you ever factor a polynomial or graph a trigonometric function again in your entire life is actually completely irrelevant.  It doesn't matter.  Some will; most won't.  However, the very study of mathematics is conditioning you to be better thinkers and problem solvers in that football game out there we call “life.”  This mental conditioning makes you a better player.  It is a necessary part of your growth and development as those made in the image of God and called to love Him with all of your heart, soul, MIND and strength.  This cultivated mind is what God wants you to use to engage with a culture that has departed from reason and from the Truth – for the advancing of His eternal kingdom and for the glory of His great name.