PART OF THE WHOLE: MATHEMATICS AND FAITH

By HEATHER LeCLAIR ’21

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Galileo says that without math, “one wanders about in a dark labyrinth.” God’s creation is ordered. He infused it with mathematical relationships. Since creation reveals these relationships, we can trust that our mathematical models accurately represent the world.

uring the early days as an undergraduate student, I could hardly explain why I chose to

double major in mathematics and Catholic studies. I knew I had a desire to discover the proof behind calculus and that I loved Christ and his Church. The decision was easy, but the harmony of the pairing was unclear. Today, the fruit is clear and abundant. Catholic studies revealed to me the beauty of mathematics and vice versa. Even more, God brought me a vocation through this formation. Three weeks after graduation, God led me to abandon my original postgraduate plans, and I joyfully accepted a position as a middle school math teacher at St. Peter Catholic School in North St. Paul. The mathematics curriculum in our school frames every concept in a real-world context. Students wrestle with patterns they experience in daily life and discover the mathematical abstraction of these patterns. All of the frustrations and laments (“Ms. LeClair, this doesn’t make sense! When will I ever use this?!”) end in brief moments of silent wonder as they finally grasp the order before them.

Yet even with the concrete applications, my students

unknowingly express their sense of the mystery of mathematics. Perhaps the most challenging moment for middle school math students is the introduction of x. (“Letters do not belong in math, Ms. LeClair!”) After all, how can you run x miles or earn y dollars? Variables are often a student’s first encounter with the heart of mathematics, that is, the abstraction of patterns. Although we can discover mathematics through creation, mathematical proofs and

“ GOD’S CREATION IS ORDERED. HE INFUSED IT WITH MATHEMATICAL RELATIONSHIPS. SINCE CREATION REVEALS THESE RELATIONSHIPS, WE CAN TRUST THAT OUR MATHEMATICAL

MODELS ACCURATELY REPRESENT THE WORLD. ”

Page 14 stthomas.edu/catholicstudies

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