Thursday, March 21, 2013


We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us.  And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.  We write this to make our joy complete.
1 John 1:3-4

I remember exactly when I discovered the satisfying nature of math.  My bachelor's degree is in something called Industrial Design.  It was conducted through the College of Architecture, alongside degree offerings in Interior Design, Environmental Design, and of course, Architecture.  I was fortunate to have been accepted in view of the portfolio I submitted.  I really came to the table poorly prepared for the actual performance of art or design - art had not been my priority in high school.  Because the degree itself was a Bachelor of Science in Design, it ended up being about a 50/50 combination of art and design, and engineering.  Projects consisted of designing products and then drafting them, rendering them and building models of them.  Presentations included manufacturing methods, exploded drawings, graphics, plus defense of our design.   There were only six of us in my cadre - six students who together practically 24/7 working in our studio, or in our required classes.  

I remember spending hours building the models of our designs - wood had to be magically made to look like plastic.  Bondo, glazing putty, primer, paint, and sanding and sanding and sanding.  I learned my way around a wood shop - I learned to operate a lot of machinery:  table saw, band saw, drum sander, lathe, jigsaw, and router, to name a few.   I learned to draft in pencil and ink, to render in marker (cool and warm gray as well as color) or colored pencil.  I learned to present using pantone films and rub-on letters, as well as cold press and hot press and spray-on adhesive.  Computer graphics and design was in its infancy, so those tools were unavailable.  Everything was hand built, hand made, carefully crafted, and yes, lovingly presented.

The presentations were the killer.  In the end, it didn't matter how much time, effort, or care had gone into the design and presentation of our products.  Bottom line.  If the instructor didn't like the color, or didn't agree with the 'lines', or took issue with the design reasoning, then the final grade fell short.  It was subjective.  

I learned to look forward to my classes that weren't subjective - my classes that required math.  There was one in particular that was just plain satisfying to me.  It was called Statics and Strength of Materials (oh my goodness - I still remember the name of the class after 30 years...).  We used math.  I would do my homework and bring it in to class, and the answers were either right or wrong.  If they weren't right, I could pinpoint the reason why.  The thinking was logical and sequential - no creative leaps or out-of-the-box solutions.  Straightforward.  

It balanced me.  

So, now I teach math.  To fifth-graders.  The funny thing is that the teaching challenges all of my abilities.  In a good way.  It challenges my creativity - taking the required learning and breaking it down to present it in a way that the students will grasp and understand.  It challenges my logic and sequence - how to most efficiently and effectively organize and order the lessons into the calendar days and class times.  It challenges my people-skills - in a classroom of pre-adolescent kids, their parents, and the administration and staff at my school. 

Here's the new eureka moment.  While I was reflecting on one of my lessons the other day - ratios and proportions - and I was trying to analyze why the kids were having such a hard time with it... I came upon the notion that math is all about relationship.  I think the kids are still doing what I used to do - thinking about math like a factory:  you put the numbers into a series of abstract rules and processes, and numbers come out.  The old input/output machine concept.  Numbers are the building material and numbers are the product.  So they get confused in the numbers.   It's abstract.  Isolated.  

In relationship, numbers represent something.  The somethings have a connection; connections show up as patterns, processes, or rules.  Math finds and defines the connections, the relationship.  

Like us.  We are in relationship.  We have a connection - to ourselves, to each other, to God.  People in the Old Testament used to give ‘fellowship offerings’ as a way to give thanks or establish fellowship between themselves and God - peace.   I think numbers in relationship – math - is God’s fellowship offering to us.  He shows us connection in everything around us.  He reveals Himself – even in math.  There is joy in that.

Thank you, God, for eureka moments.

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