A Christian perspective on mathematics and mathematics education

My goal is to develop a biblical Christian perspective on mathematics and mathematics education, and to reflect on what practical implications such a viewpoint might have for doing and learning mathematics. This is something I’ve thought about, off and on, for more than two decades as I’ve taught college-level mathematics to all sorts of students, but it is certainly not something I’ve been professionally trained to do or have become an expert on.

As a matter of fact, the whole thrust of this project probably seems rather silly to most educated people. Isn’t mathematics one of those religiously neutral areas of the curriculum where facts are facts no matter who produces or studies them? What can Christianity possibly contribute to mathematics beyond some feel-good window-dressing? Is there any significant way in which we can say mathematics is Christian or not? Isn’t the content of mathematics entirely faith-free? There aren’t any Christian prime numbers or biblical algorithms or secular circles or evil proofs, are there? Doesn’t Christianity just come into play with how mathematics gets applied and how teachers treat their students, with issues of morality and inter-personal relations?

I’m convinced more can be said about the relation between religion and mathematics. I, too, think the objects studied by mathematics are (generally) the same for Christians and non-Christians, but they are often interpreted quite differently, based in the final analysis on what each person considers to be divine. While there may be a great deal of surface agreement, therefore, this doesn’t mean that religious beliefs have no impact on the practice and content of mathematics. I’ll try to sketch more precisely what the connections are, but this will require us to view both mathematics and religion differently than many do in our culture.

The full text of this article is available in a PDF.

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