On Math and Spirituality

Ms. Sarah Boss
When thinking of classical education, the humanities is often the first thing that comes to mind. The “classics” of literature, classical languages, philosophy, and so on. But math and science — the more practical fields of study — can be taught from a perspective as classical as Aristotle. My. Kyle Botkin, 5th- and 8th-12th-grade math teacher, is a fervent believer that math can — and should — be approached not just factually, but philosophically.
Mr. Botkin believes that basic parallels between mathematics and faith only support the notion that math is God’s language. In geometry, for example, students begin their studies with basic assumptions about points, lines, and planes, which will form the foundation of a sophisticated field of mathematics. By examining how a concrete process was built on a few simple assumptions, Mr. Botkin hopes to help students make a connection between math and their own personal faith. This is a conversation he hopes to have with students both at the beginning and end of the school year, as a means of framing what they study in spiritual terms.

One of Mr. Botkin’s favorite things about math, and one which he says supports the idea that math is God’s language, is the fact that there are no contradictions in mathematics. Fifth graders and seniors can approach math differently but arrive at the same conclusions. There is a reason to this lack of contradictions, Mr. Botkin insists, and that is that the perfect nature of God underlies mathematical and physical principles which govern the world.

Mr. Botkin aims to encourage students’ sense of wonder in his math classes and intertwine mathematics with spirituality, as he believes the two disciplines should be taught together. He believes math is divinely inspired and students should recognize that they are discovering, not creating, mathematical principles. Mr. Botkin takes time in his lessons to pause and think of the greater implications of math for humans as spiritual beings, and he hopes students can learn to do the same.

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