I've done a few lighting workshops and taken on assistants who only wanted to learn about lighting, as soon as you mention things like lighting ratios, logarithmic functions of light, inverse square law... et all things math and light related I always enjoy seeing the blank look on faces as their minds puddle into goo. :-p
I think the hardest part in relating the nature of light using mathematical terms is getting some one to correlate the sets of numbers (in the case of ratios) with what things actually look like. It is ESSENTIAL, if some ones intention is to best understand the medium, to know how these abstract concepts relate back to the actual photograph. One of the best ways of doing that is shoot and experiment, review your results thoughtfully and adjust your approach for next time. Second to that, look at another persons work, ex: like in this video by the late Dean Collins http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyzkWxtKWm8
recording of a lecture from Brooks Institute.
These things should be scary or unapproachable because they are the stock and trade, the literal tools with which photographs are made.
Hope the video link helps- Collins has a great stage presence for lectures and was a great resource of knowledge. You can find more video clips from his lectures on youtube or out on the net.
All the best-