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Discovery Magazine 10/1/2013

Plants that do Math

One of the first stepsto becoming a good student in school is to learn the basics: reading, writing, and arithmetic. Students spend hours trying to master the basics of math. But it seems that students in grade school are not the only math masters. A new study shows that plants may be great at math as well. Scientists Allison Smith and Martin Howard say that plants seem to perform math calculations in order to preserve the correct amount of food during the night.

One science writer named Heidi Ledford explained that scientists once thought plants broke down starch at night at a constant rate. Experiments have shown, however, that plants can change how fast they consume food based on the number of hours of darkness they experience. Regardless of how many hours plants sit in darkness, they can regulate how quickly they use food so that virtually no food is left when the light returns.1

This is the first study to suggest that plants do math. But researchers think that this process could explain other biological systems such as animal hibernation and long migrations in which food supplies need to be regulated to ensure survival. More research will be needed to verify Smith and Howard’s conclusions, but Howard says that plants are doing “sophisticated arithmetic calculations.”

If plants really are doing math, that means they have been programmed by some type of intelligence. This intelligence must understand arithmetic, and be able to write into plants a code that the plants can use to properly do arithmetic. Atheism (the idea that there is no God) cannot explain how plants can use complicated mathematical calculations to survive. When the Creator designed plants, He saw that they were very good (Genesis 1:12). The concept of an intelligent Designer is the only one that adds up.


1. Ledford, Heidi (2013), “Plants Perform Molecular Maths,” Nature,

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