by Barb Shelton
(This article is not quite finished,
I still have quite a bit of editing and
reorganizing I want
to do, but it's adequately finished to start
you a little freer in this area!)
Key for Text Colors
black = me (Barb) talking
= someone else
Do you think that God has any opinions on or views of the topic of "math"?
If so ~ and why wouldn't He? ~
I wonder how often He actually gets ASKED for His opinion
about this subject.
What we as homeschoolers almost invariably do
is to operate out of a need ~ a perceived need ~ to
"fulfill the requirements." There are definite pro's and con's to
fulfilling requirements, of course, but what we need to look at if we are
wanting to truly educate our children, and not merely "prepare them
for college," is much broader than merely "filling requirements.
like to invite you to set aside all your preconceived ideas, as well as
maybe your laundry, and come away with me for a few minutes to explore
this vast and intimidating arena of how we regard Math.
I have never heard this topic addressed before, and my heart is
heavy for those who are caught up in
feeling that they must conform to the world's ways, so I hope you will
seriously and prayerfully consider this matter.
I have always said, there is no "one
right way" to most things relating to "learning"; and this includes
how we approach math. As with everything else pertaining to
educating our children, we
must seek to hear God.
And not just for our family, or ourselves, but for each of our individual,
But I personally feel that few even have any idea that God just might have
an opinion about this subject!
Quite to the contrary, math has become a "high place" in our culture, right
with "education," even superseding God Himself, though we would
surely never admit it, of course. In fact, many would deny it to the
death! However, when it comes right down to it, rather than God being on the throne regarding
Math, Math is on the throne, and God is OUT of the picture entirely.
Once in a while we hear the
"godly attitude toward Math" view that, as a discipline of the mind, Math
helps us hone our thinking skills, and so therefore, by imbibing deeply of
Math throughout the school years, a student is therefore becoming more
godly in two ways: 1) self-discipline and, 2) stewardship of his/her brain.
To this I would very respectfully, but firmly, say "No, I
do not agree." While "1" and "2" might be happening, toooooo high
of a price ~ a price I do NOT believe God has asked of us ~ is being paid for
what is supposed to be a fruit of the Holy Spirit, not a fruit of our
wrong thinking and overtaxing our children. And they are NOT good
enough excuses to rob our children of that much of their youth.
There are MANY other, much more enjoyable, more preparatory-for-real-life
activities that can do a much BETTER job of helping develop self control,
and good stewardship of one's brain, impulses, ultimately one's
character. But many parents buy into
this rationale for doing too much math because of narrow-sightedness and fear in this area.
Let me ask this: Where in the Word (not "world"; Word!
) does it say our children HAVE to take Math? ~ or at least lots of
it?!?!? Sharnessa really struggled with Math, too. So in the
end we looked at what she had done and gave her 1/2 credit for Math.
And yes; that's all the Math she graduated with. The Word of GOD
(not to be confused with "the word of man") is clear that we all have
different giftings; so why should ONE child train for everyone's giftings?
In my humble opinion, I feel we just do not all need "that much" math.
Perhaps you're thinking "This woman
(Barb; me) doesn't have a CLUE!" and are about ready to quit reading this article. Pleeeease stay with me... The
more prone you are to quitting this article right now, the more likely it
is that the "Heart LIFE" of your
child is at stake!!!!! You don't have to agree with me, but
please hear me out, and then take the matter to the Lord and let HIM show
you the truth about it. If I'm way off base here, fine. I'm
open to correction. I hope you are too. Because you have a lot
more to lose by holding onto your old perspective on math than I have to
lose by holding onto my new one. Let's step back and look at the
bigger picture as we continue with this...
I believe that both the mode
and the definition
of education that are in this "high place" in our culture are not anywhere
close to God's idea of education. By "high place" I mean "idol."
WHAT?!?!? IDOL!?!?! Yes, idol. I looked up this word in
the dictionary, and it said an idol is defined as: "a person or
thing greatly loved or admired." And the word idolize means
"to worship; to hold in great respect or reverence; to love or admire
beyond reason." I commonly hear of parents who hold math in much
greater regard than the well being and self esteem of the children they
subject to being overdosed on this subject. Beyond reason.
Yes, math is an idol.
I have heard many comments that make me believe that the problem with Math
is not so much Math itself; but the system it is caught up in. Math as a tool to
help you do something, or do it better, or understand it, or work with
something, is a totally acceptable, even noble pursuit. However, Math, just to say
you can do it, or have it on a transcript, without purpose, can be based in
one or both of two things: pride or fear. And this really only perpetuates the
Here are a few comments that got me to
thinking about this. Perhaps you will identify with one or more of
"Our daughter thinks
she will probably not go to college based on the call she knows the
Lord has on her life. We are both 'caught' up in the math thing,
however. We are both struggling with the mundane of a daily Algebra
lesson ~ simply because we keep saying 'what if' you want to go to
college? Should we be so concerned with this? If she decides to go, is
it possible to 'cram' and then take an college entrance exam?
"I am so math phobic.
I feel like I am closing the door to college opportunities by doing
very little math."
"My husband, who works in a
printing plant, often comments that the kids they hire out of
high school often do not have enough practical math to figure out some of
the problems related to his field. It all boils down to everyday
"I have always been very
frustrated with math... ever since I was taught
'new math' in the 60's!!! I always got A's, but didn't know what I was
until I took Geometry in 10th grade... I didn't know there was any logic
it until then!!! ;-D "
"We have always used math texts
with our oldest daughter, but we're coming out of a place right
where we see that we allowed Bob Jones allowed Mr. Saxon to be
"math gods" in our home and required our 14-year-old
"bow down" to one of
them every day... She cried most EVERY day over math for years,
are seeing how wrong that was for us to so desperately hang on to
faith in math texts. It's only been in the last year or
so that we've
started using more of the "real" stuff with her instead of just
packaged math, but it's been a slow process of weaning her off of the
Saxon that she thinks she "needs," because that's what many
of her friends are using.
"Is higher level math
REALLY necessary? Our 14-year-old daughter has done Math 5/4, 6/5 and 7/6, and did
quite well, but not without tears on many ~ too many ~ days. She seemed SO
miserable using this text (the only "text" book we've used for the
last couple of years or so), yet now she is asking to do Saxon 1/2
which I believe she could do but it would be MORE of the same crying
and frustration for her.
"My oldest son has always
math, so too many times math became a battlefield for the two of us.
of the heart, I know.) Anyway he is 17 and finishing Saxon Algebra
1/2. After he finishes this, he will take a consumer math course, then he is done with our requirements. He is
bright and works part time. Always lurking around in the dark
my mind, however, is the thought that I am handicapping him in some way.
Because he is not taking Saxon Advanced math by now, I must be a complete
failure in this whole homeschooling thing. (We've always
"I feel DREADFULLY behind in math!!!! So behind that I feel there is
no catching up and I feel like a total failure!"
That last comment, made by a dear friend of
mine, is what fanned the flame of my burning desire to get this article
She feels "...so behind [in Math] that I feel there
is no catching up and I feel like a total failure!" Bless
this precious mom's heart, but do you see how Satan is using this area to make her feel like a failure!?!?!?
There are really several issue to delve into here, and I will
address them as we go along. I want to first address the issue of
the child requesting to take (more) math... Just because a student
"wants" to take more math, does this mean they should? Or
that it is truly good for them? I would say
"NO" ~ because your student is just as immersed in our culture's thinking
and priorities as WE are.
Their reasons for wanting to take (more and
more) math are just as based in fear and
pride as ours are ~ or might be. So, no, merely wanting to take it
is not a good enough reason, and does not necessarily mean it is a
delight for them. They need their thinking to be redeemed
as much as we do, so get them to read this article, take their hearts and
future before the Lord, and then take it from there.
Next I want to address the matter of this being a "matter of the heart."
If you ask (as in tell) your child to do the dishes, and he/she objects
with a defiant or sour attitude, then that is a "matter of the
heart" and indicates a problem needing to be tended to. However, let
me ask you this: If you, as an adult, were asked to do something you
absolutely hated, found very difficult, frustrating, and pointless, and
not just "every so often," but on a day-to-day basis, in fact, a
year-after-year basis, would your objections to doing so truly be a
"matter of the heart"? Or would you merely be responding to a weight
that is too heavy for you to carry? Fathers (and mothers too, I believe) are
instructed in the Word to "not exasperate your children." Exasperate
means "to annoy keenly; to irritate greatly." Is your child
demonstrating "great irritation" or "keen annoyance" at having to bear
this load of math that you are laying upon him for no reason other than
"but don't we have to do this?"
I do not believe that most kids need most of the math they
are being required to endure. But we must use wisdom in how much is
"enough" math for our child. The problem is all the "voices" we hear
on a regular basis. For instance, I will share one comment with you,
and I want you to take note of how you react inside -
husband graduated with high honors from college with a bachelor of
arts degree in a field completely removed from the maths and
sciences. Now, he uses his high school math skills every day in the
field he ended up in ~ including higher level algebra. He is very
grateful for having been taught these subjects in high school."
So what exactly does this spark in you?
A sense of fear? An urgency to have your child take more (and more)
math? But let's take another, deeper look at this... To me, is
why it was a good idea for this particular man to have taken a lot of
Math. However, this is NOT a "good enough reason" to make
take a lot of Math.
There are many other reasons that are not good enough reason to spend so
much precious childhood time on Math.
One of them is mom said that another mom quit homeschooling and sent
her children to school because of her lack of knowing Algebra! She
said "How can I teach them something I don't know?" So what would
the solution have been to this dilemma? *Her* solution was to
entirely give up homeschooling and put her children in school! She
gave up an entire vision and lifestyle simply because of a hurdle that
could easily have been overcome. By her (the mom) learning Algebra?
NO! Her learning about God's perspective and heart on how to regard
Someone else said that a college professor told her that "a
Geometry course was important. And to do it in between Algebra and
Algebra 2. Her reasoning was (1) the questions asked on the SAT cover
Algebra and Geometry but not as much Algebra 2 material and (2) the things
you learn in a standard Geometry course will help you with the material
you cover in Algebra 2."
Okay, again, what is happening here? I am still not seeing one good
reason to take Math ~ and invest SO much of a child's mind and time into
it ~ that has anything do to with the purpose of Math! What does
it have to do with? It ALL ~ every bit of it ~ has to do has to do
with "doing well in the system"!
Now if your child is going to be in the
system, and wants to do well in the system, specifically after high
school, this is something you need to have talked about with your child;
not just *assumed" ~ which, I'm sad to say, is what happens in most
There are many reasons people use as
reasons to teach Math that are really no more than "insurance." One
gal said "One of my friends who has daughters of high school age has a
family friend teaching them algebra for the sole purpose of them
being able to home school their own children some day." A
noble intent, but a very very poor reason for taking Algebra.
Basically, the real reason is just to perpetuate the system!
My basic premise, after this having honed and researched my thoughts on this for many years, is this:
Math can definitely be a vital part of a child's education,
but specifically what part of a child's education it is, and what
form it takes,
depends completely on the child's future.
Yet all children are typically expected to take the same courses for high school. Plus the harder the math, the more intelligent the person is deemed ~ by our culture's standards. Math that could actually *help* them in life is deemed "bonehead" math, while math that is nothing more than computing complicated things that the person will never EVER use unless they go into a related field (where they *would* use it) is deemed necessary and "intelligent." Something is wrong with this picture! *Very* wrong, in my humble-but-at-least-in-the-process-of-being-thought-through-and-becoming-expressed opinion. And our precious KIDS are the ones bearing the weight of our perspective.
I personally feel that Consumer Math ~
which is sometimes scoffed at by the world ~ is PLENTY for people not going into a math related field. I
also think that it should be re-named "REAL-life Math for REAL People"!!! ;-D
Yes, there are valid places for Math, and if a child is going to college they need it TO SUCCEED IN THE SYSTEM. But I am SO tired of math being such a "high place"!!! Whether in colleges, high schools, or elementary schools! Even
~ if not especially ~ among homeschoolers!!! And for what reason?!? I think
there are only two: PRIDE! And FEAR!!! To gain advanced
knowledge in an area you will never again use just so you can say you have
it is sheer foolishness, in my opinion, foolishness that's based in pride
~ we want to be able to say our children can do better, or at least as
Now, am I saying that "taking math" is a
high place? NOOOOOO!!!!! I am saying that "math is a high
place in our culture, so be sure that the REASON you are taking it is NOT
just because of pride or fear"!!!!!!! But because it is part of
God's plan for your child's future.
Why is it that real-life math ~ commonly referred to as "Consumer Math"
carries with it "dumb" connotations? ~ like of barely being able to
write out a check
or multiply 5 X 5? I think it's because it is intrinsically linked
to the issue of math being a "high place."
I like the name "Personal Financial Literacy"
instead of "Consumer Math." Unfortunately people DO think that way, even though such thinking is not right! Consumer Math is VERY needed! How many math geniuses have no idea how to apply it to their own lives and handle personal finances? I have no idea either, never having taken a poll, ;-) but I'm sure it happens! My own feeling is that if you can't apply it to your life, it's just "knowledge that puffeth up" ~ which is all too common in the school system. If they actually *use* the knowledge, that's another thing, but I would wager that most of the math that's learned (or at least taken in) in high school and college is never actually used. It might sharpen thinking skills, and that's great, but a lot of other things that
are more useful and fruitful can do the same thing!
"Trisch" shared a "gem" from Micah 2:10. As she
applies to all of the "public school mindset," but no more, in my thinking,
than in the math arena." And
here is the verse:
"Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest: because it is polluted,
it shall destroy you, even with a sore destruction."
So does she ~ or I ~ mean to depart from
Math? No, it means ~ to me at least ~ to depart from the idol
of Math, and from thinking that you cannot ~ and should not ~ be the
one who makes the decisions regarding what YOU should do about Math,
for your child.
(Bar X 2 + a) + Edtl + [Shel]+[2,000 pounds] = ME
(See the very bottom of this page if
P.S. You're probably thinking by now "Wow!!! Barb must be REALLY proficient in Math to be doing sooooooo much logical thinking!!!!!!! Right? ... No, the truth is... I *haven't*! No really! I just had your basic amount of
Math, and never even made it up to one of the higher maths! ...
What? ... You say "It really shows, Barb!!!"???
Click here to go to
an off-shoot article
We Let Our Kids
Use Calculators in Doing Math?"
We didn't start
homeschooling until she was in
4th grade and found a lot of damage had been done. My daughter did the
work in her
math text (kicking and screaming all the way) and would get it
one day I realized she didn't understand any of it. So I had
(and pray) the whole math issue. She is not math oriented, but
definitely needed the basics. I also wanted her to know how to
checkbook. This is one of my pet peeves. I can't count
the number of
"adults" I have taught this too. Of course, it was after they
checks, etc. and they came crying for help.
So I put the textbooks aside (thank you, Barb) and we worked through
Matters for Teens by Larry Burkett. She actually liked this
type of math. PTL!!! Next, I felt she needed to just restart with the
basics. I found a
wonderful book called All the Math You'll Ever Need by Stephen L. Slavin.
It was a success and gave her a good grounding. This year she
attempt Algebra and we are finding that now she is actually able to
We all came under a lot of criticism for not following a standard
curriculum. The Lord had made clear to me that our daughter's
education was our
responsibility, not the government, or even people in the support
had to do what was right for her. Barb's books made this leap
of faith a
If you have any questions, please feel free to email me.
Ann in SC
A Few More Mini-Testimonies...
"The credits aren't the important part, learning something when you
are able to understand it and have a motivation for it, is - i.e. a
need (and ready) to know basis. ... If you are preparing your
daughters to be keeper's at home (as I am), and giving them
instruction in the academic basics (applicable to real life), and
allowing them to pursue their interests, it really won't matter if
they choose to go to college later. They will learn what they need,
when they need it. I also believe the older, wiser mind is able to
comprehend better things that aren't her expertise."
In response to the above,
"I really appreciated your words of wisdom, Lisa!
This is illustrated time and time again in our adult years, too.
I was never interested in gardening as a young girl, but
after I married a gardener AND tasted some of the fruits
(and vegies) of the labor, my need to know and interest to know
naturally inclined me to read and learn all about gardening. As we
homeschooled, my interest in certain areas of study was peeked and I
learned more than I ever had in a shorter amount of time compared to
my younger years. Now Math may be a different story, but the
underlying motivating factor is the same. Our 20yods is attending jr.
college and had to take an Algebra class that won't count for any
credit, but now he has a more defined purpose in taking it as a step
leading to the next class he needs, which he needs for the degree he
is studying for. Therefore, he's more motivated, when in high school
he wasn't sure what he wanted to do in the future."
J. Michael Smith (the Pres. of HSLDA) shared at a
conference that his wife completely stopped teaching their
math because that became their battlefield. She told him that she
sacrifice her relationship with their daughter over math. Their
graduated, went off to college and decided to major in MATH!
"I think sometimes we bring our fear,
dislike, dread, lack of knowledge, etc. to the table and transfer
it to our kids. Math was definitely our battleground in our first
couple of years of homeschooling. What worked for us, was
for me to take a more hands-off approach. We began to view math
as more of a game, like figuring out a puzzle or logic problem or
solving a mystery. Also, we figured in a little reward!
If they finished their lesson in half an hour with less that 5
wrong, they earned a quarter. If they had less than
two wrong, they earned another quarter (now with Algebra II, my
oldest has up to an hour to finish her lesson). This little
incentive helped my youngest be able to focus and finish in a
reasonable time. To this day, will still do this (and they
are 13 and 15). I think they enjoy the competition just
with themselves to do better than the day before. And they
don't mind earning money, besides! I think they have been
able to think through math better without me over their
shoulders. I think the incentive (as small as it was) was enough
to make them turn on their brains and learn the math for
themselves, not just for me. I think my point is, we don't
want to hold our kids back, just because we don't like math or see
it as important. Even if they don't become mathematicians, the
discipline of doing math transfers into other areas of
their lives. My recommendation is: relax, make it
fun, and let them go as far as they can. Just my humble
So let's just say ~
hypothetically, of course ~ that you have already effectively
squelched your child's love of math, or have even gone so far
as to have made them feel totally intimidated by it?
Then what?!?! This is what happened to one homeschooling
mom, Susan, and here is her testimony about what happened with
I still have LOTS to learn on
process/product but I wanted to share a bit from my time this
morning because it was an example to me of the Lord teaching
me this concept.
Recently the Lord led me to work 1 hour a week during our
routine/schedule with each of the boys [older 5] and this
morning was Nicholas ~ 11 and the oldest for one-on-one time.
We pray together, focus on what to do for PFT, work on writing
assignments [right now he is writing a piece on the joys of
heaven from the book we finished "Within Heaven's Gates"], and
math problems. We were discussing MATH and I realized once
again that my past POUNDINGS have intimidated him tremendously
and he thinks he will NEVER learn in this area!
Over the last year, the Lord has given me a bit of grace in
this area [Lord, pour out more! ;-)] and I'm trying now to
focus on 'process' rather than product in this area. We had a
discussion that went something like this:
Nicholas: Mom, I HATE math and I'll never
understand it--I feel so stupid and embarrassed.
Mom: Nicholas, Mommy
really believes this is something we need to pray about
in your life according to Job 32:8 "But [there is] a
spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty
giveth them understanding." Mom really believes that God
is going to open up your understanding as you cry out to
Him asking Him to BREATHE upon you in this area.
Nicholas: But, Mom, I HAVE prayed, and I
STILL don't understand!
Mom: Nicholas, mommy has
PUSHED you in this area and you think you need to know
everything NOW. Let's consider what Mr. Gatto says in "Dumbing
Us Down". He was a public school teacher for over 25
years and he said that all you need to learn the basics
of math, reading, writing is 100 hours if you're willing
and eager. Now if you worked on those 3 subjects for 2
hours a day then you would learn everything in 50 days.
But you're only 11 years old and you have many, many
years to learn what you need to learn in the basics of
math so let's not be in a hurry but let's pray and be
faithful to one small step at a time. You may never LOVE
math but I believe that you will eventually do math very
capably and without tears. There may even come a time
when you enjoy it and the Lord may **so** enlarge your
understanding that it will become your most favorite
subject and you'll go on to be an inventor or scientist
who LOVES math! ;-) [He has expressed interest in both
of these areas and yet doesn't like math.]
Nicholas: FULL OF SMILES! ;-D
This was an encouragement to me
since I've been so driven for product in this area. Once I
began to look to Jesus, who has all the answers for our
family, then process became the issue rather than perfect,
fast answers to Nicholas' math drills!
One could surmise, from
what I and others have said, that we are of an "anti-math"
viewpoint!!! ;-) But indeed it does NOT!!!! It just means that we
afford math the same freedom as we afford the whole rest of our
children's "education." If the Lord is leading you to do more math
with your kids, especially in the case of their going into a field
for which advanced math is going to be needed, then you are free to
do so!!! I just don't want us *starting* from the place of assuming
that all the math we *think* is needed for everyone is really
*needed* ~ unless it really and truly IS
This reminds me of a verse that doesn't *exactly* apply, but the
heart of it does... It's the one that says, "All things are lawful,
but not all things are profitable." We could see the "all things are
lawful" part as being parallel to "many things are required (in the
traditional high school realm), but not all things are profitable."
What we need to look at is WHAT IS PROFITABLE FOR OUR STUDENT? Not
just for "now," but for their future. The answer to that is as
widely divergent as there are people and occupations and giftings in
the background from:
animated chalkboards from:
(Bar X 2 + a) + Edtl + [Shel]+[2,000 pounds] = ME
Bar X 2 = Bar bar ... and add on an "a" to make it
Shel + ton (2,000 pounds) = Shelton!