What is the Quadrivium?

The Quadrivium refers to the four Liberal Arts that pertain to matter. These four arts include Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, and Astronomy. They are also referred to as the Mathematical Arts. They train students’ quantitative reasoning.

Historically, classical Christian educators looked to the Mathematical Arts to teach wisdom. Plato believed that it was the Quadrivium that made us human. Our reason sets us apart from the rest of material creation. Math exercises our reason in a pure and unadulterated manner. Math problems always have a correct answer. But different approaches or various algorithms will lead us to that correct answer. So we learn we experience a real, objective world subjectively.

Arithmetic trains us about discrete objects. Geometry about discrete objects extended. Music about discrete objects in motion. Astronomy about discrete objects extended and in motion. In other words we learn about particular things and their continuity in space and time.

Today we include in the mathematical arts Algebra, Trigonometry and Statistics, and Calculus. Each provide unique “contexts” for new areas of knowledge. They introduce and develop skills learned year by year.

A classical Christian education places equal emphasis on the mathematical and language arts. The language arts make us kind to one another. The mathematical arts make us wise.

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