Families that Discuss together, stay together

Families that Discuss together, stay together
Families that Discuss together, stay together

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Classical Math Evokes Higher Learning

For some, arithmetic has never been a favorite subject. However, most of us have enough understanding of it to get along in life. While it is true that many current educational systems use the modern methods of teaching and learning math, the focus is mainly on applied math. In the past, the study of math was not always limited to the application of the concepts, but was dedicated to the study of the math philosophy of the great mathematical minds such as Nicomachus, Euclid and others. There are a handful of schools and universities that are becoming successful in returning to the age-old way of learning—with the classics. This method of study seems to evoke an unquenchable desire for more knowledge. The following are considered to be two reasons why classical math may contribute to a greater desire for learning.

Many human beings, with or without realizing it, search for a higher power whether it is God or some other being. When educational studies recognize that higher being, it seems to strike a familiar chord within and creates a significant increase of learning. Classical math philosophy recognizes a supreme creator. Nicomachus of Gerasa (100 A.D.) explains in his two-volume book, An Introduction to Arithmetic, that the patterns in math are conceived “by divine nature, [and] not by [man’s] convention or agreement.” He further expounds that everything existing in nature that has a systematic method “seems both in part and as a whole to have been determined and ordered in accordance with number, by…him that created all things; for the pattern was fixed, like a preliminary sketch, by the domination of number preexistent in the mind of the world-creating God…so that with reference to it, as to an artistic plan, should be created all these things, time, motion, the heavens, the stars, all sorts of revolutions.” In essence he is reminding us that numbers have existed infinitely and eternally and are an integral part the knowledge of God, which is an inspiring prospect

Another aspect is man’s desire for truth. Truth is something that does not change over time, but stays the same uniformly and as Nicomachus says, “never departs even briefly from its existence.” Those that search for the truth and apply it are known to be full of wisdom. Pythagoras (580-490 BC) defined wisdom as the knowledge of the truth as it applies to the knowledge and comprehension of reality—and this he said is the only wisdom.

Plato describes the way to become wise in the mathematical realm when he says, “Every diagram, system of numbers, every scheme of harmony, and every law of the movement of the stars, ought to appear [as] one to him who studies rightly.” He then recommends his reader to study all things regarding them as one principle all bonded together in one great whole. Then he gives this warning to those seeking for an easier way of study, “if only one attempts philosophy in any other way he must call on Fortune to assist him. For there is never a path without these; this is the way, these the studies, be they hard or easy; by this course must one go, and not neglect it. The one who has attained all these things…I for my part call wisest, and this I maintain through thick and thin” As math is a difficult subject to comprehend for some and is often avoided, it is definitely enhanced with the classics. Classical math philosophy is a powerful supplement to applied math as it assists man in his search for truth.

It is not at a desk with a math workbook where one usually feels inspired. However, coupled with the text of one or two of the great mathematicians, one is certain to find insights into the magnificent mathematical world and have a clearer vision of how everything works as a whole. Education is meant to be inspiring and should serve as an avenue to acquire knowledge of God and man. The classic works combined with math concepts will achieve that goal.
—Julie Greenman

Nicomachus of Gerasa, Introduction to Arithmetic, Great Books of the Western World, Ed. R.M. Hutchins, (Chicago: ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, INC., 1952)
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