I was trying to help my daughter Kayla practice some multiplication flashcards last night at bedtime. We were both getting pretty frustrated. She was frustrated because it’s summer and only mean parents make their kids do homework in summer. I was frustrated, well, because my approach to teaching math is unfortunately a lot like talking to someone in a foreign language. I just repeat what I want to say louder and slower each time, hoping that will help her understand better.
Realizing in that moment that I wasn’t being a very good reflection of God as a patient, understanding, and helpful Father, I asked Kayla where she thought math came from. She said angrily, “Some crazy scientist probably made it up.” I asked her if she thought God made math. She wasn’t sure so we went to Genesis to search for the earliest evidence of math in scripture. I found the command “be fruitful and multiply” and thought that was good enough Scriptural evidence to get her to keep practicing her flash cards, but she argued that was a different kind of multiply.
While I don’t think we got to the first example of math in the Bible, we did land on Joseph and how God used his math skills to help Egypt set aside one-fifth of each good harvest to sustain them through the famine. I explained to her that God not only uses math to help His people like He did with Joseph, but that He was the creator of math and math therefore helps us understand God better. I told her studying math isn’t just about the math itself. Learning math is most importantly learning about God – about His creation, what He’s like, how He’s ordered this world, and how it works.
In all areas of life, God is at work revealing, redeeming, and restoring. Things like work, our health, relationships, and especially math can frustrate us to no end if we don’t view them through a gospel-centered lens. When we understand that God has a purpose and is in control of every area of our lives, we can find peace and joy in Him. Even in the middle of math homework.