Andrew McGregor is using his Christian faith to reimagine high school mathematics, one tiny house at a time.
Through a new effort in his role as a Mathematics and Civil Engineering + Architecture Teacher at DaVinci Science in Los Angeles, McGregor is helping students build an actual tiny house as part of their educational experience.
It’s work like McGregor is doing at DaVinci that intersects with our goal at the Center for Faith and Work Los Angeles—to foster expressions to our faith through our work that promotes the common good of our workplaces and community.
It’s all rooted in an effort to see the real-life application of classroom learning to solve problems faced in the world.
“I wanted to push the envelope a bit,” McGregor said. “ [To] challenge both students and myself to apply our learning in a tangible way.
“This was all new and a bit nerve-racking.”
It started with a need and a desire to love neighbor through loving his neighboring schools well (Mark 12:31).
After casting a vision for one of his engineering classes, McGregor connected with DaVinci Rise—a sister school—and realized they desired to begin a counseling center.
“From there,” McGregor said, “we began working with architects, lighting designers, and other experts to design and build a meaningful space that DaVinci Rise could use.”
Students spent time designing, meeting and hearing from professionals who volunteered their time to help students envision building the tiny house, and then constructing the tiny house after seeing the project through from its humble beginnings.
For many, this is their first time building and using tools in an extensive manner.
“We learn together,” said Isais Martin, a student at DaVinci Science who was featured on this beautiful TinyHouse2.0 recap video. “instead of, ‘You teach me, and I just copy what you do.’”
By building literal walls, McGregor is helping students put their learning into practice and think outside of the proverbial box. He’s living out the biblical admonition to seek the welfare of the city right where he is (Jeremiah 29:7).
‘School … was literally a way out’
So how did McGregor discover his passion for education? It began with a trip to India in 2005.
After graduating college, McGregor traveled with a group of friends over several weeks and “saw the power of education at work.”
Spending time at a school in Bangalore, India working with children in slum areas, he saw the power that reading and writing could have in its impact for helping children rise out of poverty.
“School for these kids was literally a way out of the slums,” McGregor said. “Not only physically, but also in terms of hopes and dreams for their futures.”
A self-proclaimed “constant learner,” McGregor has lived in LA since 2006 with his family and is entering his 13th year as a high school educator—eight of which have been spent at DaVinci Science.
“One of the best parts about my work is that I get to teach students how to be successful when something is challenging,” McGregor added. “Specifically with precalculus—I tell the students that this is the hope of my course—‘What happens when you get stuck? What are the strategies you are using to be successful?’
“Showing them that they can do something hard is valuable—because life is challenging. Exposing them not only to challenge but the beauty of problem solving and mathematics at a higher level is rewarding in itself.”
What McGregor paints is a beautiful picture of the vocation of educator rooted in the gospel: someone who seeks to creatively engage his students, challenge them, and leave them better prepared for their next step in the educational process. He’s not simply worried about their grades, but their development as image-bearers of God in the world.
Gospel-Centered Cultural Renewal
This year’s TinyHouse2.0 received more involvement both from students on the front-end and in the design process, as well as from administration and supporters.
Even now, projects like TinyHouse and McGregor’s work in the education sector—with his view on seeing the dignity in all work and encouraging students to impact and enhance the common good through their work and studies— push back against any misconceptions regarding mathematics.
“As a Christian educator, I must remind myself daily that my students are created in God’s image,” McGregor said. “My hope is that my classes would be more than just the mathematics, and that they would grow into people that embrace challenge, beauty, and those things that are real.
“I hope that they grow to love learning and see the wonder in creation.”
This is what fuels much of McGregor’s work even today—to leave his students and their posture towards math and life better than he found them.
It’s also something that fuels the work of the Center for Faith and Work Los Angeles. Our gospel-centered goal for cultural renewal can often sound ambiguous.
However, it’s stories like McGregor’s, which promote human flourishing and enhance the common good, that we aim to hold as an example of what faithful, engaged Chrisitan can look like in the workplace.
“The way we are teaching mathematics now is changing,” McGregor said. “There is a larger emphasis on teaching problem solving and creative thinking through mathematics than on rote memorization.
“Doing mathematics allows one to think well, and thinking well allows one to live well.”