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Title: Solving the puzzle: recreational mathematics and nation-building in Singapore (1970s–2000s)
Authors: Yap, Jan Ming Shan
Keywords: Humanities::History
Issue Date: 2022
Publisher: Nanyang Technological University
Source: Yap, J. M. S. (2022). Solving the puzzle: recreational mathematics and nation-building in Singapore (1970s–2000s). Master's thesis, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Abstract: Recreational mathematics in Singapore during the 1970s to 2000s was a means of solving the evolving puzzle of nation-building. Recreational mathematics refers to mathematics practiced for leisure, in contrast to mathematics required in the course of work or school. Due to its mathematical content and emphasis on logical thinking, recreational mathematics supposedly had the advantage of improving the minds of citizens as a rational, or educational, recreation. Rational recreation was deemed important because the development of intellectual ability was central to nation-building efforts in post-independence Singapore. Nation-building involved industrialisation, moving up from low to high value added industries, which required skilled and productive students and workers. It was also premised on the ideology of meritocracy that defined merit in terms of academic ability, which meant that intellectual development was highly valued by the state and society. Popular mathematical games like Mastermind, Rubik’s Cube and Sudoku, as well as mathematical puzzle books, were criticised or appropriated by the state, educators, enterprises and individuals depending on the mathematical recreation’s ability to further their goals, ranging from personal improvement, commercial profit, civic improvement to economic development. In doing so, they solved different issues that emerged in nation-building over time. These issues included determining acceptable forms of leisure for a modernising society, developing an intelligent citizenry, strengthening national identity and dealing with an ageing population. In addressing these issues, recreational mathematics also contributed to the construction of merit and intelligence as mathematical and logical. Recreational mathematics was therefore not solely for leisure, but became oriented towards the development of intelligent, productive citizens that would contribute to the nation.
DOI: 10.32657/10356/163072
Schools: School of Humanities 
Rights: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).
Fulltext Permission: open
Fulltext Availability: With Fulltext
Appears in Collections:SoH Theses

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