Classical Math?

After learning the theory of classical education, people often wonder how this applies to subjects like math.  We thought we'd share some thoughts on the study of mathematics from the President of Thomas Aquinas College.  This captures well what we are trying to do as a classical school.

“If we want to change the world, we should begin with mathematics. I do not mean we should begin with the things that mathematics can do, though our daily lives are undoubtedly influenced by the achievements of engineers, physicists, and others whose work depends on math. I am speaking about deeper changes - changes not in the patterns of our environment but in the patterns of our thoughts - and about what mathematics IS, rather than about what it can do... Some people are surprised by such an emphasis on mathematics in a College devoted to the liberal arts - and some students certainly find the requirements daunting. But these classes are also occasions of great satisfaction, and often even of joy.
Last spring, one of our students reflected on freshman mathematics: ‘It was in this class that I experienced the inexpressible joy of knowing something with absolute certainty and clarity. This class above all gave me confidence that the truth is something that can be found and understood.’
Society today deals more in emotion than in fact. For many people, ‘truth’ is whatever you wish it to be - a combination of emotion and desire. The idea that truth exists as something eternal and independent of feelings has largely been lost.
Properly taught, mathematics can help us to recover an understanding of universal and objective truth... A proper method of instruction is key. The simple memorization of equations and formulae can create a belief that mathematics is purely utilitarian, that we use a given formula because it ‘works.’ By contrast, the College guides our students from first principles through the steps needed to derive these equations for themselves. They come to know not just the formula itself, but the reasons behind it...
Once learned, those skills go beyond mathematics. We send our graduates out into the world well equipped to ‘figure out what things are.’ In doing so, they remind the world that we need to make our choices based on what things are, rather than on what we wish them to be.”
— Dr. Michael F. McLean, President, Thomas Aquinas College