1,000,000 is a Big Number

Over the weekend I got to thinking that a good way to summarize my place in life right now is:

Retired homeschool mom who ran out of children before running out of things to teach.

There is an unquenchable tide coursing through my veins seeking to pour out into the hearts and lives of others what I have learned–and continue to learn–about God’s principles, education and critical thinking and observation.

Last night as I was reviewing some of Nathan’s old math papers, longing for the good ol’ homeschool days, I ran across one of his math journal entries stating,

My worst math book ever in the whole world would be XYZ because I don’t get to think much.

What a statement from my 5th grade son. Those words were a testimony to the fact that a love for math had been ignited in his heart.

When we were homeschooling, math was our favorite subject because we “played math”. We played with it because math was my favorite subject and it was important to pass that love along to the boys. There are many people who simply don’t enjoy the dance of the numbers and I certainly didn’t want that happening with our children. God, the Master Mathematician, reveals Himself in numerous ways through math if we will only take the time to discover His Fingerprint. As Galileo once stated,

Mathematics is the language in which God has written the universe.

While the boys did acquire a love for math, they did not discover as many Fingerprints of God as I would have liked them to. (As you know, a young mother’s time is spread thin in her many roles and responsibilities.) Now, with the boys grown and building their own lives, I have time to go back, re-visit my greatest loves–God’s principles and education, my favorite schooling years–elementary and my favorite subject–math. It is now time to explore in greater depth some of the evidences of God’s Hand in mathematics. While I enjoy sharing these discoveries with the boys, I appreciate the opportunity to teach them in my virtual classroom as well.

Love for math started in grade school. I was fortunate enough to have had many positive experiences with the subject throughout my academic year. A favorite math class memory is Mr. Whalen’s 6th grade class. He challenged us to write 1,000,000 ones. If we succeeded, he’d give us an “A” for the semester. I was determined to achieve that goal. He even let us stay an hour after school to complete the assignment if we wanted. I stayed after. I did not complete the task. That night I went home and continued writing ones. My hand became weary because it was taking a lot longer than I had anticipated. After a few hours, I decided to enlist the electric typewriter (no computers in those days), to speed up the process. I remember thinking that now I’ll be able to achieve the goal. Wrong.

That night when my dad came home, in his characteristic way, he pulled out a piece of paper and a pencil and we started to calculate how long it would take to write 1,000,000 ones. Don’t remember the time, but it was clearly more hours–days–than I had to invest in the project. Next, we calculated how long it would take to do it on the typewriter, another disappointing discovery. We also calculated how much paper was needed–more than we had, that’s for sure. Don’t remember any of the final conclusions, but I do remember that the assignment was not achievable. The next day I took our calculations to Mr. Whalen and explained to him that it was not possible to write 1,000,000 ones in the amount of time given. Through this experience, my dad had shown me the joy of playing with the numbers, calculating, examining various ‘what if’ scenarios, and drawing conclusions.  Mr. Whalen helped me discover that 1,000,000 is a very big number. In reminiscing about this assignment, it comes to mind that the Lord was imparting a love for math and learning literally decades ago.

Years after this incident, I obtained a degree in education. While in college, I attended a weekly practicum led by a favorite professor, Dr. Jay Greenwood, Math Specialist for the Education Service District. While contemplating God’s Fingerprint in math, one thing Dr. Greenwood imparted continues to surface. That is,

Everything is connected to everything.

I like that. Dr. Greenwood taught us to connect what the child already knows to the new information. As a problem solving strategy he stated it as

When you get stuck, use what you know to get unstuck.

This strategy makes a new concept much easier to grasp. Wouldn’t math border on being delightful if it was taught as a reflection of the way God has designed the world to work? To comprehend math would be to comprehend some of the ways the world works and how I fit into it. To take this thought even further, since we are surrounded by math everywhere (calendar, clocks, money, etc.), why not use math to prove God today so we can choose God tomorrow?

When our boys were young, I discovered The Foundation for America’s Christian Education. A spark was ignited within as I set out to understand the ways and acts of God in order to make sense out of the way life works. Sure, as Christians we believe that God created the world. Yet, if we truly believe this, is it not reasonable to expect Him to reveal His Fingerprint everywhere–including grade school math? Just as an artist leaves his mark in his masterpiece, so has God done in His. As members of the family of God, it is our privilege to seek God’s Fingerprint everywhere.

There is nothing better than the moment the “ah-ha” moment in a child’s mind when he “gets it”. Even greater is when, at the same moment, the child–and teacher–can better comprehend God’s Fingerprint. Oh, to know the ways and acts of God! Won’t you join me on this path of discovery to understand elementary math concepts and, at the same time, to relate these ideas to the way God has designed the universe as well as the individual. (For example, just as each number on the number line has a distinct purpose, so does each individual. Can you imagine the chaos that would result if the number ‘3’ revolted and became a number ‘4’? In the same way, it is necessary for me to be content with the person that God has made me to be. These are the kinds of lessons I long to teach with whoever will join me on the trail to becoming “God’s Fingerprint Detective.”)

The journey continues as this homeschool mom who ran out of children before running out of things to teach shares her discoveries in this virtual classroom, combining the fun dance of numbers with the search for God’s Fingerprint everywhere.

Lord bless and keep you,

God’s Fingerprint Detective
“If they can’t prove God today, how can they choose God tomorrow?”

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