Arithmetic: How Protestant Reformed

We as Protestant Reformed people believe in having school societies for distinctively Protestant Reformed education. One of the benefits from this is our confidence that our children will not be taught in History about some mythical prehistoric man or in Geography how someone believes the earth was formed some billions of years ago.

We see from these examples how certain subjects are made truthful or orthodox. But to make these subjects distinctively Protestant Reformed is a more difficult problem. We have yet a long way to go to have the type of education we desire. In a subject such as arithmetic the material cannot be changed too radically. It is true certain story problems might be changed because they tend to be too “money minded.” Though everyone including the world would say that it is not good to be “money minded.” So if this was the only change made in an arithmetic book its general nature would remain unchanged and not be distinctively Protestant Reformed.

If arithmetic is to be made distinctive it could be done by the way the material is presented rather than by the material itself. For the numerical computation will be the same for the world as well as the Christian. On the other hand if the method of presentation is examined we might find our answer.

The usual arithmetic book today is divided up into sections of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, addition of fractions, subtraction of fractions, etc. . . . including decimals and finally ending with percentage. In examining a section for example on division it is usually found that first there are story problems on division then a few pages of arithmetic computation in division with explanation of how to do it and finally more story problems. The first set of story problems gives the students two tasks to do. The student must decide what the problem wants done and finally he must struggle through the computation without having been drilled or instructed in how to do that type of computation.

If the authors are asked the reason this is done their explanation is of this nature. Story problems are given, they claim, because it is necessary to convince the pupils that something like division is necessary for everyday life, that they will have to use division to make a living and therefore it will be for their benefit to learn how to divide. The authors then claim that the problems are given the pupils in order for them to see the necessity for the computation used.

The result of this type of instruction is that present day pupils are not as accurate, far advanced, or as interested in arithmetic as pupils before the present method.

It is understandable that if a pupil doubts the wisdom of his parents sending him to school or that what he is being taught is important and time is spent trying to prove this to him necessarily subject matter will suffer.

Therefore we as Protestant Reformed people must assume our children to be elect and regenerate. It follows that what the parent considers important the child must learn. He may not doubt in his role as the covenant child. Here, I believe, lies our distinctive Protestant Reformism.