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Singapore Math

Friday, November 1, 2019

Panda Math

Two-odd years ago, with sporadic news on the low fertility rate of pandas, I cheekily coined “Panda Math”:

Panda Math was published on Urban Dictionary before its online presence was cut short.

Like the rabbit and the koala, the panda is much liked and loved by people of all ages and from different parts of the world. It's hard to imagine those who wouldn't like to be around a panda or two if they're given that rare opportunity. What are the odds that someone doesn't like both math and panda?

How could elementary and middle school math teachers leverage on the cute panda bear popular among school children to pose a number of brain-unfriendly math questions to sharpen their problem-solving skills?

Panda Diplomacy and Numeracy

To strengthen diplomatic ties, China loans pandas to countries around the world—a version of its soft diplomacy, aimed at winning hearts and minds abroad.

The practice existed as far back as the Tang Dynasty, when Empress Wu Zetian (625–705) sent a pair of pandas to the Japanese emperor. Giant pandas are very popular among the Japanese, and they symbolize the friendly ties between Japan and China then.

Guesstimate how many more pairs of pandas would be given as diplomatic gifts to other China-friendly nations in the next decade, as President Xi and gang expand their political influence worldwide.

Below are a sample of questions that could be used to spice the teaching of math, especially among panda-and-math lovers.

Philamath embraces the panda.
Sally bought some 50-cent and 65-cent stamps for a total of $5.10. How many 50¢ stamps and how many 65¢ stamps did she buy? Answer: Five 50¢ and four 65¢ stamps.

Chuang Chuang, a 19-year-old giant panda died unexpectedly in a Thai zoo. Assume that giant pandas normally live up to 25 to 30 years in captivity, in human terms, how old would the cute and cuddly bear be?  

Adult Math

Let's bring in some biology to hone students' mathematical problem solving.

The Mating Game

On average, a baby panda weighs 100 g, which is only 1/900 of their mother's weight, compared to 1/20 for a human. During the breeding season, when males and females come together for no more than 2 to 4 days, what would be the frequency for a male panda to mate with his partner before a baby bear is born?

What are the chances of a pair of pandas producing baby giant panda twins*? Or even triplets? Are the odds of a female panda giving birth to triplets lower than those of a human being being hit by lightning, or winning the lottery twice?

* In the wild, half of all pandas give birth to twins; however, it is rare for both cubs to survive as the panda mother is only able to raise one at a time and abandon the second twin—she has insufficient milk or energy to care for the twins.

Or, what about getting grades 1–2 students to indulge in some mathematical quickies such as the following?

The total age of Kai Kai and Lin Lin at an unspecified zoo is 14. Kai Kai is 4 years older than Lin Lin. How old is each panda bear? Hint: Not 4 and 10.

At a zoo, all bears are pandas except two, all bears are polar bears except two, and all bears are brown bears except two. How many panda bears are there?

Love at First Sight (or Smell)

Compared to African elephants, which can communicate over distances of one kilometer, or koalas up to 50 meters, pandas can recognize each other within a proximity of 20 meters. However, they can only figure out the gender of a potential mate if they are less than 10 meters away.

Guesstimate the total distance adult pandas in the wild must travel every year before lovemaking can successfully take place.

Bamboo Math

To maintain their energy needs, pandas must consume 12 kg to 38 kg worth of bamboo each day. Estimate how must bamboo forests needs to be allocated to provide enough food to sustain them.

Will the Panda Be Dodo 2.0?

Barring extreme climate change, which would make it pretty hot for the bamboo to grow, what are the odds that with mating and breeding challenges, the giant pandas might suffer the fate of the dodo?

Estimates suggest that there are fewer than 2000 pandas left in the wild. If President Trump and gang are allowed to promote their climate change hoax or "global warring" agenda, are the days of the pandas numbered? How many panda bears would still be around by 2050?

Singapore (Math) and Panda
The intersection is not empty.

On the surface, it looks like there is zero correlation between Singapore and Panda. Once we put on our thinking cap, it’s not difficult to come up with a number of parallels between these two items.

For example,

Singapore’s fertility rate of 1.14 is presently below replacement level. 
Pandas’ low fertility rate is a warning sign for possible extinction.

Singapore could have just ended being another Commonwealth developing country in a sea of corrupt, mediocre nations.
The panda could have been just another member of the Bear family, or a mere zoo attraction with hardly any global recognition.

Singapore math is a "success story" in math education: the island state's top rankings in TIMSS and PISA have attracted a fair bit of attention among math educators worldwide.  
Breeding panda in captivity is a success story (including a few births in some zoos), and panda diplomacy promotes friendship between China and other countries.

Singapore is a "Disneyland with a death penalty"—economic success and political stability at the expense of political freedom and an aversion to alternative lifestyles.
Pandas are a favorite attraction at zoos, which could be flown back if China's political system is questioned.

The panda is the logo of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), which originated from a panda named Chi Chi that had been transferred from Beijing Zoo to London Zoo in 1958. 
Singapore math is associated with the "bar model method," a powerful problem-solving visualization heuristic to solve challenging word problems.

Products "made in Singapore" are no longer shun away; instead, the Singapore brand is well respected in many parts of the world for quality and honesty.
Pandas are beloved zoo animals around the world, although capitalist China pays lip service to the rule of law and copyrights, and is silent on human rights abuses, kidnappings, and torture.

It's your turn to list another half a dozen similarities between Singapore (or Singapore math) and pandas.

When the panda refuses to remain silent on illegal occupation.

Bibliography & References

Third time lucky? Pandas Kai Kai, Jia Jia get down to ‘serious business’ http://www.todayonline.com/node/2827076 

Giant panda death in Thailand leaves China asking questions https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-49737215

Giant pandas can tell a mate from their calls http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-45575604

Panda's habitat 'shrinking and becoming more fragmented' http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-41366274

How did China save the giant panda? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-37273337

Yan Kow Cheong, October 31, 2019.