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Singapore Math

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Is Age Just a Number?

Cartoon © Anon. (being memeified)

I admit that I’m guilty of ageism, but I make zero apologies for exposing criminality or hypocrisy, especially among (past and present) heads of state.

For the majority of us, oft-reluctant law-abiding citizens of the world, few would admit that the criminal mind is a “creative” mind in disguise—one that we’d learn a thing or two from if we put aside our prejudices.

A Tale of Two Senior Presidential Candidates

What are the odds that the world might soon witness a presidential debate between a patient and a prisoner? If reelected, could either folk serve his full term?

Arguably, we’ve two power-hungry weak “leaders” that America could do without—when both seniors should be grandfathering (or con-sulting) rather than mis-leading or weakening the country for another four years (assuming their Creator doesn’t call them before their term is due).

Cartoon by Rick McKee (@Rick_McKee_Ink)

An Age Limit for Presidency

If the present president and his predecessor are too old to competently serve the challenges or demands of another term, shouldn’t lawmakers pass a constitutional law that no elected president shall be of a certain age on the date of inauguration?

What should that age limit be so that voters feel comfortable that any elected presidential candidate would fulfill his or her responsibilities of office? 65, 70, 75, or some other age?

Bitter Root ≡ Better Fruit?

If a bad tree can’t produce good fruit, it’s preposterous to see millions of voters expect a serial dishonest or corrupt “I-me-myself” candidate to deliver them from their years-old financial, social, and religious ills.

The theological or political argument that voters shouldn’t put too much emphasis on a candidate’s past manifold wrongs (who’s continually denied any wrongdoings) to assess or judge him sounds dangerously frightening. Understandably, the criteria to electing a president must be much lower than those used to choosing a pope. Really?

Cartoon by @DennisGoris (buff.ly/3VlEyaz)

King Saul 2.0

What are the chances that in Biden or Trump, we’d be witnessing a modern-day version of King Saul, whose rule would be cut short? Would those mostly morally bankrupt or corrupt appointees, who condone their lies and falsehoods, expect to operate in a blessed political environment? It looks more likely that political entropy would be the new normal come January 2025.

In politics, irrationality and hypocrisy often prove that a string of wrongs has near-zero bearing on the electability of a corrupt or rogue politician.

When one senior isn’t much younger than the other, the choice isn’t that difficult. You choose the one with (more) character, humility, and honesty. Voting for the alternative is flirting with ineptitude, dishonesty, and chaos—more pain and suffering for the majority of the population, who expect their next president to behave more like a priest or pope.

US Math: An Age Problem

Let’s end with a birthday joke on the two most senior presidential candidates in U.S. politics:

Q: Why even their diehard supporters see both Biden and Trump as old, who should be banned from taking part in a presidential election again?

A: At their last birthday, the candles cost more than the cake.

Electorally yours

© Yan Kow Cheong, June 27, 2024.

Monday, April 22, 2024

Thou Shalt Keep the Mathematical Sabbath!

The Weak Days of the Week

It’s said that working seven days a week makes one weak. Even workaholics who often wished they had an eight-day week couldn’t go on their routine hoping to ever be productive or creative sans experiencing a breakdown sooner than later.

Four-Day Work Week

Recently, there was much talk in the “fine” city about a four-day working week. Sounds like good news for tens of thousands of employees, especially those in the civil service, but bad news for profits-over-people employers or bosses in the private sector, who don’t subscribe to a workplace promoting a less than a 44-hour work week.

A recent poll found that around a third of Singapore workers surveyed expect a four-day work week to be the new normal in the next five years, with about twenty percents of them saying that their employers already offer such a work arrangement as an incentive to promote mental health at work.

Three-Day Weekend

What if schools switched to a four-day week? Would productivity (and creativity) for teachers and students go up? Would parents (and tuition or enrichment centers) support it?

Would the Ministry of Education dare to entertain such an idea in a tiger economy? As Singapore has evolved from a stigma-based streaming to a socially acceptable subject-based banding (a refined version of streaming) education system, it’s not a far-fetched idea of allowing students to come to school for just three or four rather than five days a week.

After all, the aftermath of Covid-19 had given them a foretaste of what schooling or blended learning might be in future, without depriving them of a formal education. A case of “less is more,” just like the politically correct “Teach Less, Learn More” mantra.

The Sabbath Mode

It’s never too late to put yourself in a Sabbath mode. You needn't be religious to see the benefits of the Sabbath—a mind-set that those in demanding jobs appreciate.

Think of those domestic workers in Singapore, whose employers expect them to work seven days a week, even if the Ministry of Manpower has mandated a one-day off for them every week.

A Mathematical Sabbath à la Singapour

Due to lack of understanding or wisdom, for a large part of my student and working life, I was often guilty of paying lip service to keeping the Sabbath, hoping to maximize my studying time, or minimizing my sleeping or resting time. A short-term success formula with long-term costly results.

Below is an attempt to define what a “mathematical sabbath” might entail for math educators around the globe, who long to be at their creative or productive best, week in, week out, without cutting corners on their rest or quiet time.

Your Mathematical Rest Day

Which Weekday Are You In?

On average, we’ve a three-scores-and-ten lifespan, or 70 years. If every day lasts a decade, which day of the week in your life are you in?

Sometimes God gives us an extra Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. How many souls do we want to bring along for the remaining days we’ve left with?

On a similar note, recently, I semi-poetically X-ed (or tweeted) the following:

@MathPlus on 3/28/24

Remember the keep the Sabbath day holy—and also the mathematical sabbath wholly.

Restfully & creatively yours

© Yan Kow Cheong, April 22, 2024.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Thou shalt not use an arrow for an equal sign!

Shot from Tiesha Sanders/Facebook

The above grade one math question from Texas is debatably ill-posed. However, the child answer of “7 ones” is “non-mathematically creative” or “irreverently correct.”

The teacher’s reply to the mother that “… this is the new math they have us teaching.” would puzzle many math educators outside TrumpLand. Arguably, the correct answer to this routine question has little or nothing to do with “new math” or “new new math” or whatever politically correct mathematical term we want to christen it.

The child’s “correct” answer that was marked wrong by her teacher defies logic. The use of an equal sign instead of an arrow would have minimized any misunderstanding whatsoever.

In “fine” Singapore, few teachers and parents would disagree that similar grade one place values questions are deemed routine. The chances of any local school teacher or tutor using arrows rather than equals signs for these drill-and-kill questions are quasi-zero.

Even for this ill-posed elementary math question, in the first part, if a child has correctly inserted the digit 7 under the ones column, and to expect them to give the same answer for the fill-in-the-blanks for the number of ones, it doesn’t sound too logical or commonsensical. The problem poser is unlikely to ask (or expect) for “7 ones” twice!

MAGA math: 7 ones ✔️

Insisting that the answer of “7 ones” is equally valid as “27 ones,” or denying that “7 ones” is incorrect, due to the way the question is posed, sounds like the mathematical equivalent of an ex-president insisting that he didn’t lose the election, albeit all the facts or results proved otherwise.

If the child isn’t wrong (because the parent isn’t wrong), and the teacher, too, isn’t wrong, so who’s right then? Could two conceptual negatives give a concrete positive?

Logically & truthfully yours

© Yan Kow Cheong, February 19, 2024.