Teaching Mathematics from a Christian Perspective

From James Bradley, ASCI World Report:

– Mathematics helps us see the order and beauty of God’s creation and thus of God Himself. Hence, mathematics derives its purpose, meaning, and value from God. Discussion of these themes can be a legitimate and valuable part of mathematics education.

– Teachers should enjoy mathematics, receive it gladly and thankfully as God’s gift, and cultivate a classroom climate in which students enjoy it and want to do it. Educational materials should support teachers in doing this.

– Teachers need to show students explicitly how mathematics fits into our God-given stewardship of the earth and into the building of human communities. For example, teachers need to explain ways that people have used mathematics to advance principles such as justice, responsible stewardship, and community building as well as ways that people have misused mathematics.

– For much of the twentieth century, an abstract approach devoid of context dominated mathematics. By contrast, a Christian approach says that mathematics is not autonomous but rather is an aspect of an interconnected creation. Thus, teaching needs to be contextual—it needs to establish clear connections with other subjects and with the practicalities of life.

– We as Christians do not despise the physical and glorify the mental and abstract. Rather, we value our bodies as God’s creation. Thus, teachers should, as much as possible, use teaching methods that actively engage students’ minds and bodies by means such as using manipulatives and having students collect and analyze data.

– Teachers need to discuss in their classes how the surrounding cultures view mathematics and how a Christian perspective differs. For example, until fairly recently, the United States and Western Europe overemphasized human reason. Now these cultures have swung in the other direction, tending to undervalue reason and overemphasize intuition. Asian, South American, African, and Western countries tend to value mathematics solely for its economic benefits, without considering that pursuing economic gain apart from a broader framework of godly service can be harmful.

– Students often think of mathematics simply as recipes for how to do problems. Teachers need to foster an attitude of deeper reflection on what mathematics can and cannot do for human beings, on the wonder of this gift from God, and on what its order and beauty tell us about God and His creation.

Free lessons and resources for following the above in integrating Christian faith in the teaching of mathematics from the Kuyers Institute for Christian Teaching and Learning.

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