“As a man without the knowledge of Mathematics, he cannot build. He is subject to a civilization who understands Mathematics. Because it takes Mathematics to build a civilization — the knowledge of Mathematics. And it is found in the universe or the universal order of things being the very root in which the universe is based upon. It is Mathematics. It is the very root of the religion of Almighty God.
The above quote is from Elijah Muhammad, the founder of the Nation of Islam. The same organization that helped to nurture and guide Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan and Muhammad Ali.
During the turbulent period of the 1960s, most of the focus on the Nation of Islam was very negative. The NOI was accused of preaching hatred, race-baiting and possessing an overall separatist agenda from the United States. This was the time of the civil rights movement and vietnam war. There were church bombings, police brutality, assassinations and student riots that resulted in death. It was undoubtedly a very troubling time in the US.
It’s eye opening to find out that through out all the strife and negativity the Nation of Islam still maintained a strategic approach to education and learning.
Malcolm X was by far one of my favorite figures in history and as I listened to more of his speeches I was astounded to hear his knowledge on science and mathematics. It seemed that the NOI made STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) a core component of it’s organization. In his autobiography Malcolm explains that when he joined the Nation, Elijah taught him how mathematics was the key to any great civilization.
Elijah Muhammad failed out of grade school but he wanted to instill a mathematics foundation in all of his students. In particular supreme mathematics was the focus of the nation and every member was expected to have an understanding and command of numbers. Supreme mathematics deals with the mathematics of an ancient time, more often theories found in sacred geometry like the golden ratio. The golden ratio was life itself and to understand the mathematics behind it meant you could become a great individual in society.
Malcolm was a student of knowledge first and foremost so he naturally gravitated to these teachings. It’s amazing to hear him recall the diameter of the earth, or calculate the speed of the moon on the fly in one of his lectures. Not only did he have an understanding of mathematics and science but he was able to convey that knowledge to the common man in an interesting way. I have a profound interest in science and maths which made me like Malcolm even more.
It is said that every discipline can be broken down into mathematics. Computer programming? Mathematics. Angry Birds? Mathematics. Even stuff that we do naturally like dancing can be broken down into mathematics as it is the balance of our bodies. Mathematics is everywhere and it surrounds everything that we do in life.
It’s evident that the people with an understanding of mathematics will be the leaders of the future. China has excelled over the past 10 years because of their rigorous educational structure of mathematics and sciences. It’s no wonder that they are leading the world in engineering, technology and manufacturing. They have placed a focus on mathematics and it’s derivatives so they are bound to reap results.
That’s not to say that every country should adopt such a strenuous educational infrastructure in order to produce the builders of tomorrow. However, I do think that it’s of the utmost importance that countries place an emphasis on teaching their populations core mathematics and science skills. Even in the United States, the average high school student is being outpaced by their equivalents in other countries. Just take a look at this article to find the superpowers of tomorrow.
STEM does not need to be boring, we just need to change our teaching methods and styles. I know kids can be interested in mathematics just as much as any other subject. It is our duty to learn how to teach them.