by Barb Shelton




(This article is not quite finished,

I still have quite a bit of editing and reorganizing I want

to do, but it's adequately finished to start getting

you a little freer in this area!)



Key for Text Colors


black = me (Barb) talking


green or brown = someone else

      (besides me) talking




Do you think that God has any opinions on or views of the topic of "math"?  If so ~ and why wouldn't He? ~ I wonder how often He actually gets ASKED for His opinion about this subject. 


What we as homeschoolers almost invariably do is to operate out of a need ~ a perceived need ~ to "fulfill the requirements."  There are definite pro's and con's to fulfilling requirements, of course, but what we need to look at if we are wanting to truly educate our children, and not merely "prepare them for college," is much broader than merely "filling requirements. 


I'd like to invite you to set aside all your preconceived ideas, as well as maybe your laundry, and come away with me for a few minutes to explore this vast and intimidating arena of how we regard Math.  I have never heard this topic addressed before, and my heart is heavy for those who are caught up in feeling that they must conform to the world's ways, so I hope you will seriously and prayerfully consider this matter.


As I have always said, there is no "one right way" to most things relating to "learning"; and this includes how we approach math.  As with everything else pertaining to educating our children, we must seek to hear God.  And not just for our family, or ourselves, but for each of our individual, unique children.


But I personally feel that few even have any idea that God just might have an opinion about this subject!  Quite to the contrary, math has become a "high place" in our culture, right up there with "education," even superseding God Himself, though we would surely never admit it, of course.  In fact, many would deny it to the death!  However, when it comes right down to it, rather than God being on the throne regarding Math, Math is on the throne, and God is OUT of the picture entirely. 


Once in a while we hear the "godly attitude toward Math" view that, as a discipline of the mind, Math helps us hone our thinking skills, and so therefore, by imbibing deeply of Math throughout the school years, a student is therefore becoming more godly in two ways:  1) self-discipline and, 2) stewardship of his/her brain.  To this I would very respectfully, but firmly, say "No, I do not agree."  While "1" and "2" might be happening, toooooo high of a price ~ a price I do NOT believe God has asked of us ~ is being paid for what is supposed to be a fruit of the Holy Spirit, not a fruit of our wrong thinking and overtaxing our children.  And they are NOT good enough excuses to rob our children of that much of their youth.  There are MANY other, much more enjoyable, more preparatory-for-real-life activities that can do a much BETTER job of helping develop self control, logic and good stewardship of one's brain, impulses, ultimately one's character.  But many parents buy into this rationale for doing too much math because of narrow-sightedness and fear in this area.


Let me ask this:  Where in the Word (not "world";  Word! ) does it say our children HAVE to take Math? ~ or at least lots of it?!?!?  Sharnessa really struggled with Math, too.  So in the end we looked at what she had done and gave her 1/2 credit for Math.  And yes; that's all the Math she graduated with.  The Word of GOD (not to be confused with "the word of man") is clear that we all have different giftings; so why should ONE child train for everyone's giftings?  In my humble opinion, I feel we just do not all need "that much" math.


Perhaps you're thinking "This woman (Barb; me) doesn't have a CLUE!" and are about ready to quit reading this article.  Pleeeease stay with me...  The more prone you are to quitting this article right now, the more likely it is that the "Heart LIFE" of your child is at stake!!!!!  You don't have to agree with me, but please hear me out, and then take the matter to the Lord and let HIM show you the truth about it.  If I'm way off base here, fine.  I'm open to correction.  I hope you are too.  Because you have a lot more to lose by holding onto your old perspective on math than I have to lose by holding onto my new one.  Let's step back and look at the bigger picture as we continue with this...


I believe that both the mode and the definition of education that are in this "high place" in our culture are not anywhere close to God's idea of education.  By "high place" I mean "idol."  WHAT?!?!?  IDOL!?!?!  Yes, idol.  I looked up this word in the dictionary, and it said an idol is defined as:  "a person or thing greatly loved or admired."  And the word idolize means "to worship; to hold in great respect or reverence; to love or admire beyond reason."  I commonly hear of parents who hold math in much greater regard than the well being and self esteem of the children they subject to being overdosed on this subject.  Beyond reason.  Yes, math is an idol.

I have heard many comments that make me believe that the problem with Math is not so much Math itself; but the system it is caught up in.  Math as a tool to help you do something, or do it better, or understand it, or work with something, is a totally acceptable, even noble pursuit.  However, Math, just to say you can do it, or have it on a transcript, without purpose, can be based in one or both of two things:  pride or fear.  And this really only perpetuates the problem.  Here are a few comments that got me to thinking about this.  Perhaps you will identify with one or more of them...



       "Our daughter thinks she will probably not go to college based on the call she knows the Lord has on her life. We are both 'caught' up in the math thing, however. We are both struggling with the mundane of a daily Algebra lesson ~ simply because we keep saying 'what if' you want to go to college? Should we be so concerned with this? If she decides to go, is it possible to 'cram' and then take an college entrance exam?


       "I am so math phobic.  I feel like I am closing the door to college opportunities by doing very little math."  


       "My husband, who works in a printing plant, often comments that the kids they hire out of high school often do not have enough practical math to figure out some of the problems related to his field.  It all boils down to everyday math.


       "I have always been very frustrated with math... ever since I was taught 'new math' in the 60's!!!  I always got A's, but didn't know what I was doing until I took Geometry in 10th grade... I didn't know there was any logic in it until then!!!  ;-D "


       "We have always used math texts with our oldest daughter, but we're coming out of a place right now where we see that we allowed Bob Jones allowed Mr. Saxon to be the "math gods" in our home and required our 14-year-old daughter to "bow down" to one of them every day...  She cried most EVERY day over math for years, and we are seeing how wrong that was for us to so desperately hang on to our faith in math texts.  It's only been in the last year or so that we've started using more of the "real" stuff with her instead of just packaged math, but it's been a slow process of weaning her off of the Saxon that she thinks she "needs," because that's what many of her friends are using.


       "Is higher level math REALLY necessary? Our 14-year-old daughter has done Math 5/4, 6/5 and 7/6, and did quite well, but not without tears on many ~ too many ~ days. She seemed SO miserable using this text (the only "text" book we've used for the last couple of years or so), yet now she is asking to do Saxon 1/2 which I believe she could do but it would be MORE of the same crying and frustration for her.


       "My oldest son has always struggled with math, so too many times math became a battlefield for the two of us.  (A matter of the heart, I know.)  Anyway he is 17 and finishing Saxon Algebra 1/2.  After he finishes this, he will take a consumer math course, then he is done with our requirements.  He is very bright and works part time.  Always lurking around in the dark recesses of my mind, however, is the thought that I am handicapping him in some way. Because he is not taking Saxon Advanced math by now, I must be a complete failure in this whole homeschooling thing.  (We've always homeschooled.)


       "I feel DREADFULLY behind in math!!!!  So behind that I feel there is no catching up and I feel like a total failure!"




That last comment, made by a dear friend of mine, is what fanned the flame of my burning desire to get this article completed!  She feels " behind [in Math] that I feel there is no catching up and I feel like a total failure!"  Bless this precious mom's heart, but do you see how Satan is using this area to make her feel like a failure!?!?!?


There are really several issue to delve into here, and I will address them as we go along.  I want to first address the issue of the child requesting to take (more) math...  Just because a student "wants" to take more math, does this mean they should?  Or that it is truly good for them?  I would say "NO" ~ because your student is just as immersed in our culture's thinking and priorities as WE are.    Their reasons for wanting to take (more and more) math are just as based in fear and pride as ours are ~ or might be.  So, no, merely wanting to take it is not a good enough reason, and does not necessarily mean it is a delight for them.  They need their thinking to be redeemed as much as we do, so get them to read this article, take their hearts and future before the Lord, and then take it from there.


Next I want to address the matter of this being a "matter of the heart."  If you ask (as in tell) your child to do the dishes, and he/she objects with a defiant or sour attitude, then that is a "matter of the heart" and indicates a problem needing to be tended to.  However, let me ask you this:  If you, as an adult, were asked to do something you absolutely hated, found very difficult, frustrating, and pointless, and not just "every so often," but on a day-to-day basis, in fact, a year-after-year basis, would your objections to doing so truly be a "matter of the heart"?  Or would you merely be responding to a weight that is too heavy for you to carry?  Fathers (and mothers too, I believe) are instructed in the Word to "not exasperate your children."  Exasperate means "to annoy keenly; to irritate greatly."  Is your child demonstrating "great irritation" or "keen annoyance" at having to bear this load of math that you are laying upon him for no reason other than "but don't we have to do this?" 


I do not believe that most kids need most of the math they are being required to endure.  But we must use wisdom in how much is "enough" math for our child.  The problem is all the "voices" we hear on a regular basis.  For instance, I will share one comment with you, and I want you to take note of how you react inside -


      "My husband graduated with high honors from college with a bachelor of arts degree in a field completely removed from the maths and sciences.  Now, he uses his high school math skills every day in the field he ended up in ~ including higher level algebra.  He is very grateful for having been taught these subjects in high school."


So what exactly does this spark in you?  A sense of fear?  An urgency to have your child take more (and more) math?  But let's take another, deeper look at this...  To me, is illustrates why it was a good idea for this particular man to have taken a lot of Math.  However, this is NOT a "good enough reason" to make your child take a lot of Math.


There are many other reasons that are not good enough reason to spend so much precious childhood time on Math. 


One of them is  mom said that another mom quit homeschooling and sent her children to school because of her lack of knowing Algebra!  She said "How can I teach them something I don't know?"  So what would the solution have been to this dilemma?  *Her* solution was to entirely give up homeschooling and put her children in school!  She gave up an entire vision and lifestyle simply because of a hurdle that could easily have been overcome.  By her (the mom) learning Algebra?  NO!  Her learning about God's perspective and heart on how to regard Math!


Someone else said that a college professor told her that "a Geometry course was important.  And to do it in between Algebra and Algebra 2. Her reasoning was (1) the questions asked on the SAT cover Algebra and Geometry but not as much Algebra 2 material and (2) the things you learn in a standard Geometry course will help you with the material you cover in Algebra 2. Okay, again, what is happening here?  I am still not seeing one good reason to take Math ~ and invest SO much of a child's mind and time into it ~ that has anything do to with the purpose of Math!  What does it have to do with?  It ALL ~ every bit of it ~ has to do has to do with "doing well in the system"!


Now if your child is going to be in the system, and wants to do well in the system, specifically after high school, this is something you need to have talked about with your child; not just *assumed" ~ which, I'm sad to say, is what happens in most families.

There are many reasons people use as reasons to teach Math that are really no more than "insurance."  One gal said "One of my friends who has daughters of high school age has a family friend teaching them algebra for the sole purpose of them being able to home school their own children some day."  A noble intent, but a very very poor reason for taking Algebra.  Basically, the real reason is just to perpetuate the system!
My basic premise, after this having honed and researched my thoughts on this for many years, is this:



Math can definitely be a vital part of a child's education,

but specifically what part of a child's education it is, and what form it takes,

depends completely on the child's future.



Yet all children are typically expected to take the same courses for high school. Plus the harder the math, the more intelligent the person is deemed ~ by our culture's standards. Math that could actually *help* them in life is deemed "bonehead" math, while math that is nothing more than computing complicated things that the person will never EVER use unless they go into a related field (where they *would* use it) is deemed necessary and "intelligent." Something is wrong with this picture! *Very* wrong, in my humble-but-at-least-in-the-process-of-being-thought-through-and-becoming-expressed opinion. And our precious KIDS are the ones bearing the weight of our perspective.

I personally feel that Consumer Math ~ which is sometimes scoffed at by the world ~ is PLENTY for people not going into a math related field.  I also think that it should be re-named "REAL-life Math for REAL People"!!!   ;-D
Yes, there are valid places for Math, and if a child is going to college they need it TO SUCCEED IN THE SYSTEM. But I am SO tired of math being such a "high place"!!!  Whether in colleges, high schools, or elementary schools!  Even ~ if not especially ~ among homeschoolers!!!  And for what reason?!?  I think there are only two:  PRIDE!  And FEAR!!!  To gain advanced knowledge in an area you will never again use just so you can say you have it is sheer foolishness, in my opinion, foolishness that's based in pride ~ we want to be able to say our children can do better, or at least as well.


Now, am I saying that "taking math" is a high place?  NOOOOOO!!!!!  I am saying that "math is a high place in our culture, so be sure that the REASON you are taking it is NOT just because of pride or fear"!!!!!!!  But because it is part of God's plan for your child's future. 


Why is it that real-life math ~ commonly referred to as "Consumer Math" carries with it "dumb" connotations? ~ like of barely being able to write out a check or multiply 5 X 5?  I think it's because it is intrinsically linked to the issue of math being a "high place."


I like the name "Personal Financial Literacy" instead of "Consumer Math."  Unfortunately people DO think that way, even though such thinking is not right! Consumer Math is VERY needed! How many math geniuses have no idea how to apply it to their own lives and handle personal finances? I have no idea either, never having taken a poll, ;-) but I'm sure it happens! My own feeling is that if you can't apply it to your life, it's just "knowledge that puffeth up" ~ which is all too common in the school system. If they actually *use* the knowledge, that's another thing, but I would wager that most of the math that's learned (or at least taken in) in high school and college is never actually used. It might sharpen thinking skills, and that's great, but a lot of other things that are more useful and fruitful can do the same thing!

"Trisch" shared a "gem" from Micah 2:10.  As she put it,
"This verse applies to all of the "public school mindset," but no more, in my thinking, than in the math arena."  And here is the verse:  "Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest: because it is polluted, it shall destroy you, even with a sore destruction."  So does she ~ or I ~ mean to depart from Math?  No, it means ~ to me at least ~ to depart from the idol of Math, and from thinking that you cannot ~ and should not ~ be the one who makes the decisions regarding what YOU should do about Math, for your child.


Mathematically yours,
(Bar X 2 + a)  +  Edtl  +  [Shel]+[2,000 pounds] = ME


Get it?!?! 

(See the very bottom of this page if you don't.)

P.S. You're probably thinking by now "Wow!!! Barb must be REALLY proficient in Math to be doing sooooooo much logical thinking!!!!!!!  Right? ... No, the truth is... I *haven't*!    No really!  I just had your basic amount of Math, and never even made it up to one of the higher maths! ... What? ...  You say "It really shows, Barb!!!"???   




Click here to go to

an off-shoot article called:

"Should We Let Our Kids

Use Calculators in Doing Math?"







Mini Testimony


We didn't start homeschooling until she was in 4th grade and found a lot of damage had been done. My daughter did the work in her math text (kicking and screaming all the way) and would get it right, but one day I realized she didn't understand any of it.  So I had to rethink (and pray) the whole math issue.  She is not math oriented, but she definitely needed the basics.  I also wanted her to know how to balance a checkbook.  This is one of my pet peeves.  I can't count the number of "adults" I have taught this too.  Of course, it was after they had bounced checks, etc. and they came crying for help.
So I put the textbooks aside (thank you, Barb) and we worked through Money Matters for Teens by Larry Burkett.  She actually liked this type of math. PTL!!!  Next,  I felt she needed to just restart with the basics.  I found a wonderful book called All the Math You'll Ever Need by Stephen L. Slavin.  It was a success and gave her a good grounding.  This year she wanted to attempt Algebra and we are finding that now she is actually able to comprehend it.

We all came under a lot of criticism for not following a standard curriculum.  The Lord had made clear to me that our daughter's education was our responsibility, not the government, or even people in the support group.  We had to do what was right for her.  Barb's books made this leap of faith a joyous adventure.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me.

God Bless,
Ann in SC



A Few More Mini-Testimonies...



Lisa said... "The credits aren't the important part, learning something when you are able to understand it and have a motivation for it, is - i.e. a need (and ready) to know basis. ...  If you are preparing your daughters to be keeper's at home (as I am), and giving them instruction in the academic basics (applicable to real life), and allowing them to pursue their interests, it really won't matter if they choose to go to college later. They will learn what they need, when they need it. I also believe the older, wiser mind is able to comprehend better things that aren't her expertise."


In response to the above, Jody shared:  "I really appreciated your words of wisdom, Lisa!  This is illustrated time and time again in our adult years, too. I was never interested in gardening as a young girl, but after I married a gardener AND tasted some of the fruits (and vegies) of the labor, my need to know and interest to know naturally inclined me to read and learn all about gardening. As we homeschooled, my interest in certain areas of study was peeked and I learned more than I ever had in a shorter amount of time compared to my younger years. Now Math may be a different story, but the underlying motivating factor is the same. Our 20yods is attending jr. college and had to take an Algebra class that won't count for any credit, but now he has a more defined purpose in taking it as a step leading to the next class he needs, which he needs for the degree he is studying for. Therefore, he's more motivated, when in high school he wasn't sure what he wanted to do in the future." 


J. Michael Smith (the Pres. of HSLDA) shared at a conference that his wife completely stopped teaching their daughter math because that became their battlefield.  She told him that she wouldn't sacrifice her relationship with their daughter over math.  Their daughter graduated, went off to college and decided to major in MATH!


Wendy shared:  "I think sometimes we bring our fear, dislike, dread, lack of knowledge, etc. to the table and transfer it to our kids. Math was definitely our battleground in our first couple of years of homeschooling.  What worked for us, was for me to take a more hands-off approach.  We began to view math as more of a game, like figuring out a puzzle or logic problem or solving a mystery.  Also, we  figured in a little reward!  If they finished their lesson in half an hour with less that 5 wrong, they earned a quarter.  If they had less than two wrong, they earned another quarter (now with Algebra II, my oldest has up to an hour to finish her lesson).  This little incentive helped my youngest be able to focus and finish in a reasonable time.  To this day, will still do this (and they are 13 and 15).  I think they enjoy the competition just with themselves to do better than the day before.  And they don't mind earning money, besides!  I think they have been able to think through math better without me over their shoulders.  I think the incentive (as small as it was) was enough to make them turn on their brains and learn the math for themselves, not just for me.  I think my point is, we don't want to hold our kids back, just because we don't like math or see it as important.  Even if they don't become mathematicians, the discipline of doing math transfers into other areas of their lives.  My recommendation is:  relax, make it fun, and let them go as far as they can.  Just my humble opinion!







So let's just say ~ hypothetically, of course ~ that you have already effectively squelched your child's love of math, or have even gone so far as to have made them feel totally intimidated by it?  Then what?!?!  This is what happened to one homeschooling mom, Susan, and here is her testimony about what happened with her son:


I still have LOTS to learn on process/product but I wanted to share a bit from my time this morning because it was an example to me of the Lord teaching me this concept.
Recently the Lord led me to work 1 hour a week during our routine/schedule with each of the boys [older 5] and this morning was Nicholas ~ 11 and the oldest for one-on-one time. We pray together, focus on what to do for PFT, work on writing assignments [right now he is writing a piece on the joys of heaven from the book we finished "Within Heaven's Gates"], and math problems. We were discussing MATH and I realized once again that my past POUNDINGS have intimidated him tremendously and he thinks he will NEVER learn in this area!

Over the last year, the Lord has given me a bit of grace in this area [Lord, pour out more! ;-)] and I'm trying now to focus on 'process' rather than product in this area. We had a discussion that went something like this:


Nicholas: Mom, I HATE math and I'll never understand it--I feel so stupid and embarrassed.

Mom: Nicholas, Mommy really believes this is something we need to pray about in your life according to Job 32:8 "But [there is] a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding." Mom really believes that God is going to open up your understanding as you cry out to Him asking Him to BREATHE upon you in this area.


Nicholas: But, Mom, I HAVE prayed, and I STILL don't understand!

Mom: Nicholas, mommy has PUSHED you in this area and you think you need to know everything NOW. Let's consider what Mr. Gatto says in "Dumbing Us Down". He was a public school teacher for over 25 years and he said that all you need to learn the basics of math, reading, writing is 100 hours if you're willing and eager. Now if you worked on those 3 subjects for 2 hours a day then you would learn everything in 50 days. But you're only 11 years old and you have many, many years to learn what you need to learn in the basics of math so let's not be in a hurry but let's pray and be faithful to one small step at a time. You may never LOVE math but I believe that you will eventually do math very capably and without tears. There may even come a time when you enjoy it and the Lord may **so** enlarge your understanding that it will become your most favorite subject and you'll go on to be an inventor or scientist who LOVES math! ;-) [He has expressed interest in both of these areas and yet doesn't like math.]

Nicholas: FULL OF SMILES! ;-D



This was an encouragement to me since I've been so driven for product in this area. Once I began to look to Jesus, who has all the answers for our family, then process became the issue rather than perfect, fast answers to Nicholas' math drills!


One could surmise, from what I and others have said, that we are of an "anti-math" viewpoint!!! ;-) But indeed it does NOT!!!! It just means that we afford math the same freedom as we afford the whole rest of our children's "education." If the Lord is leading you to do more math with your kids, especially in the case of their going into a field for which advanced math is going to be needed, then you are free to do so!!! I just don't want us *starting* from the place of assuming that all the math we *think* is needed for everyone is really *needed* ~ unless it really and truly IS
needed. ;-)
This reminds me of a verse that doesn't *exactly* apply, but the heart of it does... It's the one that says, "All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable." We could see the "all things are lawful" part as being parallel to "many things are required (in the traditional high school realm), but not all things are profitable." What we need to look at is WHAT IS PROFITABLE FOR OUR STUDENT? Not just for "now," but for their future. The answer to that is as widely divergent as there are people and occupations and giftings in the world!









I got the background from:


...and the kids-on-pencils from:


...and the animated chalkboards from:




  (Bar X 2 + a)  +  Edtl  +  [Shel]+[2,000 pounds] = ME
Bar X 2 = Bar bar  ...  and add on an "a" to make it "Barbara"

Shel + ton (2,000 pounds) = Shelton!