Department of Mathematics and Physics fosters community

In a continual effort to promote community within the department and throughout the APU campus, the Department of Mathematics and Physics has begun hosting book discussions and game nights.

Last Friday evening, math professor Dr. Mark Arvidson and Chair of the Department of Mathematics and Physics, Dr. Bryant Matthews, met with students to discuss a book called “Mathematics: Through the Eyes of Fatih” by James Bradley and Russell Howell.

“[The book] is really a way for us to take a look at the mathematics discipline from a biblical world view,” Arvidson said. “I think one of the challenges as a math professor is to try to teach math from a biblical perspective.”

The group meets to discuss the how and why questions of math. A particular question that has been discussed is whether or not God created the world to be a world of reason and rationality and full of patterns.

“Mathematics is a tool that we as human beings have come up with to try to explain the reasonableness and the patterns in how things fit together in the world,” Arvidson said. “Take, for example, the chirps of a cricket. As the temperature increases, the number of cricket chirps in a cricket also increases. That’s called a direct relationship. So if you plot those points on a graph, you find out when you connect those points they make a straight line. Then we create tools like y=mx+b, which is a function for a linear equation- that allows us to explain that line and also predict the end result.”

One of the seminar questions the group discusses in its meetings is, ‘Is mathematics discovered or is it created?’

“Numbers come from the mind of man. You can’t go hiking in the forest and find a five hanging from a tree, but is there a sense of five-ness? You talk about five sheep or five fingers, if we take away my fingers, I still have the number five. That’s the kind of stuff we kick around a little bit in mathematics,” Arvidson said.

At their last meeting, the group discussed epistemology, which Oxford Dictionaries defines as the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion. They will be discussing ontology, or the branch of metaphysics that deals with the nature of being, and mathematics in their upcoming meeting.

“I would [recommend the book] to non-math majors,” Arvidson said. “I would put a little asterisk on there that it’s not an easy read, and if you had a bent towards philosophy, that would be helpful.”

That same Friday evening, the Math Center hosted a math and physics game night for students. Pizza, soda and an assortment of games such as Colorku, Exploding Kittens and Settlers of Catan were provided for students during the event.

“It’s something the department puts on for math and physics majors to just come, hang out, play games with each other and just get to know people that we see a lot in Segerstrom, and get to know the people that we’re taking classes with,” math major Amanda Leon said. “Anyone can come. It’s mostly math and physics majors, so you might have to put up with some nerdy jokes and things like that, but anyone is welcome to come, it’s just a really great time to get to know people.”