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Singapore Math

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.