Stats professor keeps pace with hobby and passion

Elizabeth Bouwkamp- Staff Writer

He started running in the middle of high school and loved the competition. Completing four marathons, a 50k trail race, a race at the World 50k championship in Qatar, several half marathons and 30km road races, Dordt College Mathematics and Statistics professor, Terence Attema, continues his hobby of running while teaching students about numbers.

This fall, Attema ran on occasion with the men’s cross country team to pace and train for the Twin Cities Marathon. He competed in the race over Heartland Break and kept a 5:20 pace while finishing in a time of two hours and 19 seconds.

During his undergraduate years, he ran on scholarship for Campbell University in North Carolina. While completing his graduate degree in Applied Mathematics in Guelph, Ontario, Attema ran with the Speed River Distance Running Club.

“As an introvert, I do enjoy running by myself a lot,” said Attema. However, running a marathon can get lonely. When deciding on the next race to run, he looks for competition close to his level to improve his time.

“It ended up being very helpful to have a pack of 4 runners to run with for the first 16 miles of the race,” he said, regarding the Twin Cities Marathon.

Meeting new people is a highlight of running for Attema.

“In 2011, I ran this cool event for team Canada in Japan called the Ekiden relay. It was a team of 4 guys and 4 girls, but only 3 girls and 3 guys raced and I was the substitute,” he said.

Even though Attema did not get to run, he said the free trip to Japan made it worth the time.

“Running is similar to a spiritual journey and profession,” he said. “You seek growth and improvement.” As a goal, he aims for a top 10 finish in big city marathons in North America.

As a sports fan, competitive runner and professor of Mathematics and Statistics, Attema enjoys numbers and data.

“I wasn’t really interested until I realized there are a lot of numbers in sports,” he said. “I like looking at numbers. I like looking at data. I like observing data. I like analyzing data.”

As a professor of statistics, Attema often introduces the subject in relation to numbers in sports. On the first day of class, he engages students with hands-on activities—like guessing his weight. The small class size at Dordt make these types of activities easier.

While receiving his degree, he thought about teaching high school.

“My niche is at the intro level,” he said. “I want people who aren’t very excited about stats to enjoy it. Data is everywhere. It’s kind of a pure science. It’s the kind of subject you can apply to anything you want.”

Even the Christian faith.

“It is certainly a challenge to bring faith into a class that seems neutral, such as Statistics or Mathematics,” he said.

But it can be done. Attema ties a chapter on correlation and causation to the grace of God and good works. He reasons there may be a correlation between people saved by the grace of God and their development of good works, but this does not mean good works cause salvation.

“I think this is a cool example to tie in a statistical concept with what Dordt students should be familiar with regarding their faith,” he said.

Faith and running are two topics in Attema’s personal blog. He desires for people to be encouraged by his writing.

“It doesn’t get read by a huge audience,” he said. “Mainly just Facebook friends, and it also gets posted on a Canadian running website.”

Attema’s work and hobbies encompass his gifts and passions. He emphasized the importance of cultivating them.

“For me that is running and teaching math and stats,” he said. “It is important to pray about what you do for work and for a hobby. At times, it can seem unrelated to your Christian faith, but you can be a witness wherever you are and in your interactions with others.”

Photo by Sophie Schmidt

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