Friday, February 25, 2011

Faith Permeation in my Math Class

God and infinity; how possibly could these have something in common?
In my AP math class we were discussing ideas of infinity, and a couple of problems that force our mind to understand infinity came up.  One idea was that “There are just as many even numbers as there are numbers in your numbering system.
For some this is a nearly impossible idea to understand.  First we have to understand that infinity is not a number but an idea.  In fact there is countable infinity and uncountable infinity.  To illustrate how, when talking about infinity, it can change our logic, I used the following example:
Two spaceships are flying through space in the same direction (without getting into a discussion about whether or not space is infinite, we assumed it was).  The first spaceship is travelling at a speed of 100 km/h while the other is travelling at a speed of 10 km/h.  If these spaceships were to travel forever, which spaceship would travel the furthest distance?
At first glance, we might think the first spaceship will travel further.  However, if this was true then there must be a spot in space that the first spaceship flew by that the second spaceship did not.  When we think about it, though, this would never happen.  Every spot in space the first space ship flies by the second will eventually get to; exactly 10 times longer.
Some minds were mystified, as I was, the first time I encountered infinity.  The problem here is that infinity is a difficult idea to understand using a finite mind.
How does this relate to God?
I then informed my class that God also has infinite love for all of us.  As humans, it is not secret that we will sin throughout our life.  However, God will forgive us for all sins including ones in the past, present, and future, or big or small, as long as we are truly sorry for sinning.  Even in the bible,
Jesus died to pay the penalty for all of our sins, and once they are forgiven, they are all forgiven (Colossians 1:14; Acts 10:43). However, when we stumble, we are called to confess our sins - "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Yes, Christians do sin (1 John 1:8) - but the Christian life is not to be identified by a life of sin. Believers are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). We have the Holy Spirit in us producing good fruit (Galatians 5:22-23). A Christian life should be a changed life. A person who claims to be a believer yet continually lives a life that says otherwise should question the genuineness of his faith. Christians are forgiven no matter how many times they sin, but at the same time, Christians should live a progressively more holy life as they grow closer to Christ.
We need to understand that, even though we may make “wrong” choices from time to time, and we are truly sorry and ask forgiveness for these sins, God will always love us and welcome us into his arms.


  1. I had no idea that Real Teaching means religious indoctrination. Math class or bible class?

  2. Students come to our catholic school on their own free will. We don't force the ideas of religion onto them but more educate them about God. Students then make their own decisions about religion.

    I fear that some teachers use the mandated outcomes as their bible and their students are no longer shown the beauty of education. This is true indoctrination of knowledge.

  3. Hi, I've only been following your blog for a short time. I've found a lot of interest here - but I was astounded by this post!

    I'm particularly struck by the contrast between the way that you 'discussed' infinity, but 'informed' the students about God's love. In the context of a faith school, asking the students how the idea of infinity could fit in with religious ideas may be justified, but your description suggests it was presented as a fact, when it is by no means universally accepted.

    I'm not sure how that fits in with students making their own decisions. I wonder if the students chose the school of their own free will or their parents' free will?

  4. Lois, I do agree that if I want a true discovery classroom I should have asked students how infinity relates to God. I do understand how religion is a "touchy" subject, but one that I do agree with and believe is to be true. You use the word "fact", but I hope you understand that God is an idea for which you must believe in and by believing in Him, you take on certain ideas about his to be factual.

    When I said students come to us of their own free will, I truly believe that if a student did not want to be part of our Catholic system, they could attend the school across the field from us which is non-catholic.

    Above and beyone from God's love, I do hope that all classrooms are based on providing students with the correct morals and values to go forward in life doing what is "right" as much as possible.

  5. I absolutely agree about providing students with a moral compass. When the head at my school (which isn't a faith school) talks about education, the words 'moral purpose' always appear in the first one or two sentances. I think she's right - that is vital.

    I think any subject that impinges (probably not the best choice of word, but I can't think of a better one!) on belief can be a challenge for teachers to deal with.

    The same thing happens with politics for example (although I understand that's a different type of belief). I always find it difficult to keep the line between answering my students' questions and allowing them to develop their own ideas.

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  7. Whose "moral purpose" is followed in a school that isn't faith based? Is it the parents? Students? Teachers? Admin? Trustees? What if one groups moral purpose conflicts with another's moral purpose? How do you decide who is right?

    In regards to Catholic schools specifically, although quality academics is important, their essential purpose is to evangelize. Evangelization, from a Catholic perspective is to ultimately help the students deepen their relationship with Jesus and the Catholic Church which he established 2000 years ago.

  8. If you want to really give students something to think about, ask them to contemplate the notion that all matter was compacted into an area the size of a pebble. This is especially interesting to contemplate while one is in the mountains.