Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Changing Tides

You're probably sick of hearing me moan about people telling me to change my course, and so am I. But I have no other outlet. The thing is that I know that one day I will live to regret being stubborn. You see, in my life there is a circle drawn around me (for eg) and life must be lived within this circle. Doing a maths degree is on the borders. Just about as well. So I get a maths degree, 'then what' is the question. It seems that teaching is one of the only thing that I can do to remain in this circle. Remain in this circle I must- unfortunately. No one knows what may happen in the future- no one. However, as with the probability of tossing a head being a half, I can put certain probabilities on certain things. The chances of me doing a MMath or a PhD in the next 5 years: zero. The chance that I'm most likely going to be a teacher in the next 5 years: one.

Keeping this in mind the only thing that I can content myself with, is to do as much maths as possible in the two years I have left. After these five years, things may change- who knows? I could always do a part time PhD sometime in the future, and a fourth year isn't really necessary. I just want to do that because I'll be learning more maths. In life there are always certain things that one can and can't do. The most important thing is that you make the most of what you can do. I most do that now. I will always aspire to one day do a PhD in maths, but maybe that'll be in 30 years? (Obviously going on the fact that my age belongs to S_25, I'll still be 'young' then!) Is this false positiveness from me? I don't know. Seeing things in black and white, painfully makes them clearer.

Yesterday, after talking to a friend, I realised that I'd lost track of something valuable. This loss has been instrumental in other aspects of my life. Now finding this thing should be more important to me than maths. That's a fact. This thing will help me in life -not maths. Yes, I'm conflicted. Without this thing I seem lost. You see if I hadn't lost this object, I wouldn't be worrying about whether or not I'd made the right decision. As they say, I may have won the battle but I am losing the war. I will continue winning the battles if I stubbornly continue with my degree and complete it, but I will always be losing the war. The only time I'll start winning the war is if I find this lost valuable. It used to give me a confidence, so powerful and invisible, that after talking about it with my friend, I realise that life's pretty 'weird and empty' without it. So what I've passed some exams, so what that I do maths, and so what to a lot of things? It should be like this. I should not be seeing how great maths is, and ignoring the gem I've lost.

Yes, I'm probably sounded like a crazy bean whose gone slightly more crazy! The fact is that I'm feeling sad. I want to recover the situation, but I'm guilty of being lazy and not having enough will power to do certain things. I look to my parents- role models in what they do- and pray that one day I'll be like them. I've always looked up to my parents, and I have mentioned that teachers have been positive role models to me, and as my first ever teachers, so have my parents. I don't want to disappoint them. You see they mean well- they see this circle, whereas me in my euphoric state don't. I'm not talking about maths anymore.

The fact is that until I find this lost gem, I'm not going anywhere in life. A lot of people don't understand why I say that, but it's a fact. One of my school teachers used to give us the following example. We're walking on a path i.e life. Now, whilst you're walking the path splits into two. The path on the right is the straight one and everything 'good' and 'bad' is possible here. You can do what you like, at the risk of losing yourself and your gem. Life's too easy one could say. Whereas, although the other path may be darker, you'll have your gem with you. You'll face trials etc and hopefully you'll overcome them and do what you wish. This analogy continues, however what was important was the fact that we have a choice. You'll probably get many chances to switch paths, but whether you do, well that's up to you. Basically the teacher wanted to say, that what's easy is not necessarily always right. Sometimes we have to struggle a lot to reach our destination.

I believe in life it's important to be a good person. Define good beans? I can't. It's time like this when I look at my parents, and there I find my definition of good. I read somewhere, that if you suspect bad things of others etc. then what does that tell you about your own state of mind and thoughts? If you never give people the benefit of the doubt, and are always thinking the worst of them, then what does that say about you? On my leavers assembly a teacher wrote sayings, poems etc on a card, and gave us different ones. Mine said:

'There's so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us. That it hardly becomes any of us to talk about the rest of us.'

(I probably remember this since it was on yellow card!) Now I'm making a big hoo haa about trying to set up a mathematical community in Manchester for the undergraduates, but that should always be second. Like I said, there is something much more important than maths.

There are certain things I believe that one must do, and I will aim to do them things. However, how strong I am and how I do these things will be important. Not knowing what the future holds is indeed scary. I'll be honest with you- I never wanted to 'work' after my degree. Well not straight away anyway. My plan was to finish my degree i.e. the ultimate prize and do nothing. (Nothing is something in my case, but I'd rather not say. :) ) and then after sometime I'd teach. Now I still want to do this something, I still do. But I guess that having really got into maths, my want for this something became 'hazy'. I've got to ask myself- is this want more important to me than doing a PhD? Yes it is- I have to remember that I can do a PhD at any time in my life. Hopefully not too late, but I can also do it part time...

Money is the main motivation that people are asking me to reconsider my course, and the fact that maths is sitting on the border line. You see money might make the difference for this something, and that is what everyone else is seeing. I've just wanted this something and never really considered what's involved etc. I don't know what to do to be honest. Knowing my stubborn nature, I feel that I will continue doing maths but the question to be asked is, will I regret this? I've never really been motivated by money. Obviously I don't want to be living in poverty, (and wouldn't mind being a millionaire!) but if I had lots of money it'd just sit there. (Better start saving now! :D)

Enough of that- I'm already feeling better! I've just got to remember that although winning the war is more important. Onto other things, I haven't been religiously watching the Apprentice, but having watched a few episode I 'like it'. Well I do believe that it has been edited pretty extremely, but nevertheless if I have to sit downstairs and watch something, I'd rather watch the apprentice as opposed to Eastenders! One of the contestants in the finals has done a Maths degree- go Christina. :D Yes, I'm particularly biased, and I don't like the other contestant Simon! [random, but the finals tomorrow!]


Craig said...

I'm not sure who's told you that you can't make much money with a maths degree [if I understand correctly that this is what you're saying], but they are wrong!

Out of interest, what are they suggesting that you do instead?

There might not be a specific career that all maths graduates go into, but so what? It keeps your options open, much more than, say, accounting.

The careers service at Manchester is excellent and you should really go and ask them how valuable a maths degree is to employers - you might be surprised.

Another point: You've just finished your first year. When I was at your stage, I hated maths and the idea that I might stay on to do a PhD would have been laughable! It's great to have the ambition of doing a doctorate, but you don't have to decide right now!

The most important thing is to do something you enjoy. If you switch to something you hate, you'll find it much harder to get a good grade, or even complete your degree, and then you'll be much worse off.

Good luck! Keep talking to people about your options, and make sure you do what YOU want to do, not what somebody else wants.

beans said...

Hi Craig,

Well I think they believe that I can't make much money with teaching (especially for the amount of work teachers do!).

Hmmm, I've had some people say optometry, medicine and pharmacy! [In year 9 I had wanted to do either pharmacy or medicine, but in year 10 everything changed].

That's why I mentioned the apprentice, because the woman in the final who has done a maths degree worked in the pharmaceutical industry. I've been on the careers website [and they annoyingly now send me an email everyday!] but that was about work experience etc. I'll check it out.

Lol, that's the funny thing-I love maths at the momement. I feel that I never really 'knew' what maths was before my degree started and now it's just amazing. I'm not great at it, but I enjoy it. I think the idea in my head is to continue doing 'maths' and doing a PhD is, I suppose, one way of doing that. (I don't have to decide now but I'm a daydreamer....Dr Beans! :o ):D

Thanks for your advice and comments. :) I know that this battle is going to continue throughout my degree, but I think there's a balance between the two sides!! I think I'm lucky that I'm doing something I enjoy, for I know a few people who are hating their degrees and consequently not really giving a damn about their studies.

[I could always coach a football team, if all else fails that is...!]

Craig said...

Teachers are not exactly poor, but I understand the point that you could get a better paid job, possibly with a lot less stress!

But why do you have to go into teaching after your degree? There are plenty of other jobs that you could do with your degree.

I can't be 100% certain, but I reckon that your options are more limited by a degree in optometry or pharmacy, even medicine. In a sense, you are being forced into one particular job with those kind of subjects (though I know that you don't actually have to be, say, a pharmacist if you have a pharmacy degree).

Just my two pence...

Jake said...

Teachers are not exactly poor

This is worth highlighting - I believe the average starting salary for a teacher is around £20,000; that is not to be sneered at and is equivalent to what graduates get in other fields. There is also opportunity for career development and salary progression (I think that outside of London, experienced teachers earn around £30,000)...and of course there are the long holidays.

I think the 'teachers don't get paid well' argument is now an anachronism.

Saying all of that, I don't think I could (or indeed would want to) be a school teacher.

I have also had a lot of people say to me 'oh, you are doing a maths degree...do you want to be a teacher/accountant?'

I don't think everyone understands that some people go to university for reasons other than career - they are quite suprised when I tell them that I am just doing it for fun and will probably just try to get my old job back when I am finished! Even if I were to go in for the whole 'graduate career' thing; as Craig mentioned, there are loads of different opportunities out there in 'business' and 'industry'
(I love the way careers people use those words! It always makes me giggle... it sounds like they are candidates on the 'Apprentice'...why don't they just say 'public sector' or something)

beans said...


I want to be a teacher ultimately- but I'm really not sure what level I want to teach. I think the conflict is a result of my not being sure about doing a PhD. However, like you said it's still early days so I should 'relax' a little! (There's not much else I can see myself doing- I'm not exactly employable!!:p )

The reason why I did a maths degree as opposed to doing straight teaching, was because I wanted to keep my options open. (My aunty told me to NOT do teaching on its own). I agree that doing medicine etc are more restrictive, however the thing is after you've done your degree 'you're done' (as Dr H says!). I mean you don't have to study anymore. The problem here is that no one understands, like Jake said, that I enjoy studying and learning stuff! I'm not studying to work- that's just something I have to do one day. [With a maths degree, it's three years and then another year for the PGCE.] I did say I was weird.:p

Thanks for your comments. :) I know that I shouldn't let the comments bother me, but now they just make me feel 'sad' as opposed to angry (and the post is getting it out of my system). It's like a damn yo-yo.

beans said...


I think people say the amount of work teachers have to do and then comment on the pay. However 20K is pretty good! I remember having to do a careers project in year 9 on teaching and I'm sure the pay then was about £16,5000 (or something like that!). In my careers interview the advisor also mentioned that maths teachers are in demand so promotion etc is on the cards. [But the long holidays was my main reason-sweet! :D ]

Yes, I get the accounting comment a few times, and people do tend to be shocked to hear that I want to be a teacher! [Let's say that needs working on!]

It's amazing the number of people who are studying for either 'the university experince' or 'to be earning the big bucks' one day. That's another reason why I don't want to 'grow up' since then I'll have to work. (My friend found it funny that I'm already missing uni!)

Lol, talking about the aprrentice, the mathematician didn't win! (I think half of the people don't know what them words mean, and use them to sound 'all that'. Well Noddy does anyway. :D)

(Had to dash to MFI, is the reason that the two replies are not one after the other!)

Jake said...

I think people say the amount of work teachers have to do and then comment on the pay.

I don't know that a conscientious teacher does any more or less work then a conscientious person in, say, a nine-while-five public sector job.

You can live very nicely on £20,000 a year; I was earning about that before I went to university and I had a nice flat in a decent area, a car and enough money for food, clothes, days out and other luxuries.

Quality of life is something very important. Before I went to university I was considering going back to a job that I had previously had which was completely unskilled, involved longer hours and was by far less paid. The reason being that I hated my job and would rather have earnt less money by doing something I despised less.

I think you should really prioritise what you want to do and let the career and salary stuff fall into place around that. You can do well and be a success in many different areas.

Anonymous said...

beans. What type of school did you go to and was it Single-Sex or mixed?

beans said...


£20,000 is indeed a lot of money! *day dreams...* :D You make a fair point of doing what you want. Since like you said, even though the pay was less, at least you despised it less. That's the main thing- doing something you enjoy. Obviously in life, at times you have to do things which you don't want to, but I know what you mean. I hope you're right about career stuff falling into place- I hate thinking about it, but I have to.

Sigh. I think it's best for me to concentrate on getting my degree first. :o What happens next, well time will tell. Thank you all for your comments, they do tend to 'buffer'* my attitude! I really need to find a way to filter what everyone tells me.

(I spied that the next Orrenlshaw lecture might be in October- DAMN! Hope it's not going to finish at six again!)

*Yes- I'm missing chemistry!

beans said...


If you're the same anonymous commenter from Mathematics Under the Microscope, then you may have noticed that I didn't reply to your question there. :) I'm afraid that I have no intention of replying to your question-ever. It seems that like the way people assume things of you due to your results, others assume things of you because of, say what type of school you went to etc. I'd rather not give people a chance to form opinions of me based on what school I went to, but on what kind of person I am. :)

I'm sorry for not answering your question, however one thing I can say about my school is that it has contributed a lot to who I am today. Also secondary school has to be one of the best expereinces in my life. It taught me a lot and I made great friends through it, and met many great teachers. :)

KTC said...

Whoever think that a Maths degree only lead to being a teacher or PhD need to get their head out of the sands. Like a previous poster suggested, you should speak to some advisor who I'm sure will be more than happy to enlighten you or anyone else for that matter the range of careers Maths graduates go into.

If you're into money, you can always go sell your soul and work in the city as an investment banker or something (no bias there from me at all ;) . Investment banks and Consultancies recruit lots of people from the physical sciences and maths area.

Operations Research, Actuary, and Statistician are just a few more Maths related careers that immediately comes to mind. There are of course all those jobs that look for someone with (any) degree (mostly with at least 2:1).

As to PhD, as long as you're working hard, and want to carry on doing maths, never rule it out. Like they always say, one can change one's mind about what want to do very quickly indeed.

Keep doing what you enjoy, and not worry about what other people think you ought to be doing instead. They (whoever they are) usually have the best intention, but it's your life at the end of the day, and it is you who need to be happy about what you are doing.

egm said...

Agreeing with all that say that at the end of the day, the decision to be made will have to be done by you, and you alone. So do what it is you are truly interested in.

beans said...

Hey KTC (long time!),

I want to be a teacher you see, and I think it's my fault that people only think I can be a teacher! I just sometimes can't be bothered correcting what they think, since it's teaching that I want to do. The main problem in my attitude has been because of 'wanting' to do a PhD. I guess now that I'm keeping it open, rather than a definite- things have slightly changed in my head.

Sell your soul? I'm sure it's not that bad. ;) The thing which causes me annoyance at times is my indecisiveness (sp!). I guess I've never really researched into what careers I could actually do. You know what- a PE teacher might just be the best job that I could do! :D

I hear what you're saying and egm as well. The decision should be mine, but it's when my dad says it that I get 'upset' the most. I'm a bit of a daddys bean (well i'm a mummys bean as well, but my dad and me usually stack up against my mum :D) and I guess I don't want to dissapoint him. My mum doesn't have a problem with me doing maths, and always tells me to concentrate on completing my degree and leave the thinking of a PhD till later. I know he means well, but in my head I can't seem to get the image of being told, 'I told you so' in the future! That's what makes me uneasy, but yes I'm a stubborn so and so and probably will be doing maths*. :D Thanks for the comments. :)

*hopefully. :)

Anonymous said...

I am the same anon who posted the question on Maths Under the Microscope's weblog. I just assumed you hadn't logged onto his weblog, so i posted the same question on your blog instead.

"I'd rather not give people a chance to form opinions of me based on what school I went to, but on what kind of person I am"

I use your previous blog entries as a foundation to base an opinion on you.

And given you'd "applied to the University of Manchester, Warwick, Kings College London, Sheffield, Lancaster and UClan" and your college offered STEPs and also that your dad went to University (and studied Chemistry) as quoted from previous blog entries, I have already made some assumptions based on the above:)

Why do you support Man United btw?

beans said...

My collge doesn't offer STEP. My further maths teacher was preparing my classmate for the exams since Cmabridge and Warwick wanted it. Having put down Warwick as her firm choice, the principal from my college wrote to Warwick explaining that she won't be able to take the STEP exam, due to not being prepared for it and that the college didn't offer it. They interviewed her and then gave her an offer based on her A level results only.

BTW sorry for not replying there- I was trying to formulate how best to reply! :o

What would you say if I was to tell you that the universities I applied to were all dummy universities (apart from Manchester that is!)? You see you might have made assumptions on the Universities I applied to, but what exactly do they tell you? And so what that my dad went to university- I mean why is that important?

I support United because of Eric Cantona. :D Loved the whole 'collars up' thing in primary school! That man was a legend. Joga bonito. ahem :o Which team do you support?