Mr. L's Math Page

The mission of Friends Academy is to provide each student with an educational foundation that will instill the academic knowledge, skills, and understanding; responsible citizenship; respect for diversity and differences; and sense of well­being needed for a lifetime of learning and personal growth.

There is a story about a young child who hands a flower to a botanist and asks, “What do you see?”

The botanist begins, replying about the physical characteristics of the flower, identifying different parts of the flower’s anatomy, describing what those parts do, and how they work together.

Perplexed by the cold, analytical description, the child looks up and asks, “Don’t you see that it’s beautiful?”

I feel that too often we look at math in the same manner as the botanist. We view math as something that is rigid, inflexible, and nothing more than just a bunch of rules that need to be memorized and applied, and when we do this we miss out on the fact that math is actually very flexible, creative, and, yes, beautiful.

When children ask why we learn math, adults often respond, “Because it is useful.” If usefulness was the test for studying a topic, then many other topics we study in school would also fail that test. Mathematician Georg Cantor once answered this question by making it clear that one does not study math because it is useful. “One studies it,” he wrote, “because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful.”

At Friends Academy we seek to develop students who can do more than just solve problems. We aim to produce students who appreciate math and understand how to use numbers to accomplish what they want.

Some examples of this at work are a group of seventh graders who meet every week with kindergarten students to help them explore new concepts online, fifth graders who have produced some amazing projects as they’ve looked at different ways numbers and operations relate to each other, and Middle School students who have seen how straight lines and elegant curves can be used to model and predict things like future winning times in the 100-meter dash, Black Friday sales, and population trends.

To fully appreciate mathematics, one must go beyond rules and algorithms. One must immerse themself in a language not of letters and words and sentences, but one of numbers and symbols and shapes and equations. Only then, can one fully appreciate that math isn’t just useful,

it is beautiful, and,

it is really, really cool.

-David Lobato, Friends Academy Heads Up, February 17, 2019