mathema: that which is learned
A Note from Tai-Danae Bradley
Executive Director, The Math3ma Institute
The Math3ma Institute has its origins in a blog I created in 2015 of the same name, Math3ma, which contains expository articles on various topics in mathematics that range from an undergraduate level to graduate and research levels. Importantly, the goals and mission of this Institute are closely tied to the reasons I started the blog and still maintain it today.
As a first-year graduate student in 2015, I was (and still am) enamored of the ways mathematics is so expertly woven into the world around us. From the forces that hold the tiniest subatomic particles together, to those that describe the sweeping motion of planets and stars, mathematics is strikingly foundational to it all. But I was also aware that the beautiful landmarks of mathematics are often hidden behind a thick fog of technical jargon and lofty speech. To access this knowledge, one must therefore develop keen eyesight that can penetrate through the fog to clearly see the simple ideas and concepts that lie beneath.
As a Christian I also recognize mathematics as a language that God has graciously granted us access to for the purpose of knowing Him better through investigations of His handiwork in creation. To learn this language I spent much of my time in graduate school training my eyes to see mathematics clearly. I learn best through writing—a slow process that forces one to think deeply and carefully—and so the blog Math3ma was born as a personal study tool during this time.
Since the blog’s inception, however, I have discovered that many students around the world felt as I once did — that the mathematics we learn in school is a largely inaccessible subject, taught as dry and lifeless and little more than symbol-manipulation and speedy arithmetic. The beauty and simplicity of God’s brilliance and genius in creation is thus buried deep beneath that dense fog of formality and technical speech mentioned above. As a result, people who are initially eager to learn the subject often become discouraged from digging deeper and even from entering the field altogether. These barriers convey the idea that mathematics belongs to a select few and only to them. But as Christians, we know this should not be the case. We know to Whom this knowledge belongs, and moreover that it has been given to us by His grace and for His glory.
That is the reason the blog has continued over the years.
I wanted to help make advanced mathematics accessible to wide audiences so that others could see the ideas clearly, so that perhaps they may begin to wonder about the true source of it all — the very One who spoke creation into existence.
I chose the title “Math3ma” for its significance to this endeavor. It is a twist on the ancient Greek word μάθημα (máthēma), which means “that which is learned” or “a lesson.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, our English word mathematics is derived from it. But another English word also has origins in máthēma, namely disciple, which simply refers to a learner or student and in the Greek feminine form it is given by μαθήτρια (mathétria, Acts 9:36). The word “math3ma” thus serves as a reminder for those who, like me, are students of the Lord Jesus Christ through His Word as well as learners of this knowledge He has graciously given to us.
At The Math3ma Institute, the goals envisioned over the years have now become a reality in ways I never could have imagined by encompassing fields throughout all of STEM: engineering, computer science, life sciences, machine learning, and more. Housing the Institute at The Master’s University further allows us to create a place for students, faculty, and researchers to join together in the stewardship of the knowledge of the truth that God has given to us by His common and special grace — a place where we can together find joy in the absolute wonder of His creation (1 Timothy 2:1–4).
For this, I am deeply grateful to our Lord and look forward to ways in which we can continue to magnify His great name.
“The heavens are telling of the glory of God, and the expanse is declaring the work of His hands.”
Psalm 19:1 (LSB)