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Singapore Math

Friday, April 2, 2010


Here are some random thoughts between mathematics and music―indeed, there are more parallelisms than thinks the brain! 

Bestsellers for publishers are: 

Music for your unborn baby! 
Problem solving for your unborn child! 

Are these mere fads? The Mozart effect and the 'Aha!' feeling 

The centuries-old debate: Why are there more mathematicians who are musicians than musicians who are mathematicians? The ratio is probably a million to one!

The-music-of-the-spheres doctrine prompted astronomers, physicists, and mathematicians to study (read) mathematics to better understand the workings of the universe.
Pythagoras' discovery that the musical notes can be expressed in integral (integers) ratios prompted him to start hypothesizing that "Everything is number!" 

Music is soothing to the ear, mind, and soul; mathematics is like a balm to the mind's eye. In this sense, music can reach out to a larger audience than math, but mathematics seems more selective in revealing its charm and beauty to mankind.

Mathematics often acts as a filter to separate the nerd from the herd; music provides a platform to bring people from different socioeconomic backgrounds together. Music unifies people, mathematics alienates them.

You don't need to know the mechanics of musical notes to appreciate music; you don't need to know abstract mathematics to appreciate the beauty and power of a mathematical theorem (or result).

The mathematics of music (technical, boring, ...) and the music of mathematics (poetic, elegant, certain, ...)

The Mozart effect and the visuospatial skills: is it just a marketing fad to tap on the fear and greed of consumers or parents? There is no concrete correlation or proof that listening to music helps one improve one's visualization skills in the long term.

Let's appreciate music for music's sake, and let's enjoy mathematics for mathematics' sake!

Mathematics is like music to our sixth sense; music is like mathematics to our spiritual sense.

Reading and doing mathematics is Greek to the lay person; speaking and singing in tongues sounds alien to the unbeliever.

God is a Great Mathematician; God ever Geometrizes! The most beautiful theorems are in His Great Book! 

God is the Perfect Musician. The psalmist sings and praises to the Lord! Music soothes the soul or spirit———―King Saul listening to David playing the flute! 

Let those who have ears hear and listen; let those who can think quantify and enumerate!

Let the angels sing! Let the angles cross!

© Yan Kow Cheong, April 1, 2010

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Lighter Side of Singapore Math (Part 1)

The Greeks have their Euclid’s Elements.
The Egyptians had their Rhind papyrus.
The Japanese had their sangaku.
The Chinese had their Chiu-chang Suan-shu.

What do the Singaporeans have?
The Model Method

Q: If the US math curriculum is ‘a mile wide and an inch deep,’ what about the Singapore curriculum? 
A: The Singapore curriculum is ‘a smile wide and a glitch deep.’

Some politically incorrect terms defined

Singapore: 1. A 'fine' city with the most number of restrictions and prohibitions, and a record number of supplementary (assessment) mathematics titles per hundred thousand people. 2. A city-nation with the highest number of drill-and-practice specialists per capita.

Math teacher: A complaining lot whose number has increased in the aftermath of Y2K and 9/11.

Model method: 1. An overrated and oversold approach to solving word problems. 2. Visualization attaining brand status. 3. An often-misused and abused anti-algebraic heuristic tool to tackling challenging word problems traditionally set in grades 7 to 10 to terrorize elementary grade students.

Number bond: A high-tech word to mean breaking a number into smaller numbers.

Back-to-Basics: Basic numerical skills to avoid being conned by shopkeepers, contractors, and timesharing agents.

Kumon Math franchises: The MacDonalds of Mathematics Education – the 'McDonald’s of Rote Learning.'

[Japanese] Sakamoto Math: Singapore's model method of using lines instead of bars or rectangles.

Ig Nobel Peace Prize for Singapore Prime Minister
Singapore's ban on the import of chewing gum, and others like feeding pigeons, spiting, begging in public, and failing to flush the toilet won the 1994 Ig Nobel Peace Prize for former prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

A Quick-and-Dirty Comparison between Singapore and USA

What appears as ‘critical or creative math questions’ for Americans are often routine questions for Singaporeans.

American textbooks offer even or odd answers, while Singapore textbooks provide almost all answers and solutions, free of charge.

Singapore may be the math envy of the US, based on its ranking at the TIMSS, but Singapore teachers long for the opportunity to be as creative as their US counterparts. Besides, Singapore teachers dream of the shorter teaching hours, and lesser dependency on grades.

Origin of Singapore Math

SINGAPORE MATH = China Math ∩ Russia Math ∩ Israel Math ∩ US Math ∩ ...

What's STEM for Singapore?
Not Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, but Strategies, Tuitions, Examinations, and Marks!

© Yan Kow Cheong, April 1, 2010