Mathematical Musings

‘Alice in Wonderland’ was written by an Oxford University maths lecturer…

Alice talks to the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon: ‘…the different branches of arithmetic – Ambition, Distraction, Uglification and Derision…’

Addition… We spend our lives adding… to our possessions, wardrobe, bank balance, experiences, friends, popularity…

St Peter talks about a different sort of addition: ‘Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and too your goodness add knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness love.’  

The addition I’m looking for.

Subtraction… ‘How many hours a day did you do lessons?’ said Alice…. ‘Ten hours the first day,’ said the Mock Turtle, ‘nine hours the next, and so on.’

‘What a curious plan!’ exclaimed Alice. ‘That’s the reason their called lessons,’ the Gryphon remarked, ‘because they lessen from day to day.’

The lesson of lessening… bad things to take away… envy, greed, selfishness, anger, gossip, impurity, stress, anxiety… negative thoughts, words and deeds.

The subtraction I need.

Multiplication… Remember the old addition sum that becomes multiplication? One rabbit add one rabbit… they multiply very quickly…

The Jesus story… 1 boy + 5 loaves + 2 fish = 5000 fed + 12 baskets-full… Jesus turns addition into multiplication.

St Paul speaks of a God ‘…who is able to do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine…’  This God doesn’t do simple addition sums, but complicated long multiplication with big numbers.

Division… We live in a deeply divided world… black and white, rich and poor, East and West, Protestant and Catholic, Christian and Muslim… divisions that have been going on for centuries… certainly long division!

Before St Paul talks about his long multiplication with big numbers he explains that Jesus came to bring unity by abolishing division…

That would please some schoolchildren!

When I taught maths I wasn’t pleased when children talked about ‘sharing’ rather than ‘dividing’…

Musing… Sharing is preferable to division…

2 thoughts on “Mathematical Musings

  1. Whenever i think about division and sharing it it also reminds me about carrying others as well passing your burdens (remainders) and that Jesus can carry all our burdens, the great healer.


  2. Thanks David. Excellent! I hadn’t thought of that. You often have ‘one to carry’ in mathematical operations. You must never forget the one to carry… you note it and must always include it!


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