# Singapore Problem Solving

"We are saying this problem is for every student (since it involves rather sophisticated reasoning)." Singapore has a disproportionate share of top problem-solvers.Its 15-year-olds had the highest scores, tied with Korea, on the problem-solving portion of the Programme for International Student Assessment, a standardized test administered to students in developed countries in 2012.As soon as Albert says that, though, Bernard figures it out.

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Almost 10 percent of students performed well enough to be considered "highly skilled problem-solvers" — the highest share in the world.

In the US, just 2.7 percent of students tested that well.

Albert and Bernard just became friends with Cheryl, and they want to know when her birthday is.

Cheryl marks 10 possible dates: May 15, May 16, May 19, June 17, June 18, July 14, July 16, August 14, August 15, or August 17.

The rest of the dates are duplicates: the 14th could be in July or August, the 15th could be in May or August, the 16th in May or July, and the 17th in June or August.

But the 18th could only be in June, and the 19th only in May.

Bernard: At first I didn't know when Cheryl's birthday is, but now I know. Students have to work backward from the information they're given to the solution.

It's not something that can be solved by a formula, but requires rigorous logical and technical skills.

A headache-inducing logic problem from Singapore's Math Olympiad went viral earlier this year, sparking online debates, a Twitter hashtag, and even a song that mimics the process of elimination that leads to the correct answer.

The task — figuring out a girl named Cheryl's birthday with seemingly little information — was maddening at first glance.

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• ###### This viral math problem shows what American schools could.

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