The Math Class

Joshua watched as his dad wrote the Fibonacci Sequence on the board. 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, … “What’s the pattern?” Mr. Jackson asked the class.

Joshua knew, but Abigail answered. “Zero plus one is one. One plus one is two. One plus two is three. Three plus five is eight. And, so on and so on, etcetera, etcetera.” She ended with a flourish.

Mr. Jackson smiled. “Right.” Then he asked, “How would you define it algebraically?”

Students stirred and looked down at their notebooks, hoping not to be called on, but Mr. Jackson waited until a boy raised his hand. “If n is the number’s order in the sequence, then xn = xn-1 + xn-2.

“Good. Math isn’t just solving problems. It’s about making discoveries. Math isn’t invented. It’s uncovered. 1 + 1 = 2 because that’s a truth of the universe. It was always true and always will be true.”

Joshua laughed to himself. “God in math. Always was and always will be.”

His dad had continued, “The Fibonacci Sequence was discovered. Math is about discovering truths that have always been there. The sequence makes a spiral, so it describes things we find in nature, from the spiral in a seashell to the spiral of a galaxy.”

“That’s awesome,” Joshua whispered to himself.

“What, Joshua?”

“I didn’t say anything.”

“Just a second ago, what was that?”

Joshua shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He thought his dad knew better than to call on him when his hand wasn’t raised. “It’s just…it shows design in the universe. Math as discovery sounds a lot more exciting than dealing with problems. I usually think of math as being one big problem.”

The class laughed. Lots of them thought of math as a problem.

His dad stopped Joshua on the way out. “Thanks for speaking up. I knew someday I could get you to see the wonder in math.” Joshua wasn’t sure he would go so far as to say that he thought math wonderful. “If you are serious about liking math discoveries, maybe you’d like to look into fractals.”

“Is that like fractions?” Joshua asked skeptically.

“No. I probably have a book at home,” his dad offered, hoping for a shared interest with his son.

“Okay, maybe.” Joshua turned and exited the classroom, leaving his dad slightly disappointed.

Marcus slid up to Joshua in the hallway. “What’s with you today?”

“Nothing.”

“You’re like turning preacher kid.”

“I barely said anything,” Joshua replied.

“Whatever,” Marcus said as he headed off in his own direction.

Joshua put his head down and plowed through the hallway to his next class.