Math Matters

Math Matters

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

A couple of days before Christmas, a strange news story caught my eye. It seems that 3,200 prisoners were prematurely released in Washington State because someone miscalculated their sentences under a court ruling which mandated that “good behavior” be factored into sentence length. Stunningly amazing, and stunningly human.

The story brings several thoughts to mind:

  • Metaphorically speaking, it pays to measure twice, cut once.
  • Truthfully speaking, there are three kinds of people in this world: those who can do math and those who can’t.
  • Speaking from the perspective of Murphy’s Law, if it can go wrong, it will.
  • Realistically speaking, what’s the solution? Is there a solution? Do you make all the released inmates come back to prison?
  • Responsibly speaking, if your math skills work, is there a math teacher whom you should send a note of thanks?
  • Interpersonally speaking, I won’t be insulted if you check my math. I have been wrong before, and I will be wrong again.
  • Technologically speaking, I wonder if they’ll blame the computer.
  • Bureaucratically speaking, I wonder if they’ll appoint a commission or a taskforce to investigate this error. I also wonder how much that will cost the taxpayers.

I’m neither gloating nor insulting the state of Washington. When it comes to important and embarrassing errors, no one is immune. To quote the great philosopher Clint Eastwood, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

As a rule, math is quite logical. Biblically speaking, math doesn’t always follow those rules. Maybe that’s just as it should be, reminding us of the limits of our logic.

  • Sometimes one = three and three = one. Think of the Trinity.
  • Sometimes two = one. Think of husband and wife according to Genesis 2:24.
  • Sometimes 66 = one. One Bible, sixty-six books.
  • I love the king’s math problem in Daniel 3:24-25. Glad he figured it out.
  • I don’t even know what to say about the math of 2 Peter 3:9 and Psalm 90:4.