Thursday, January 03, 2008

A note to maths book authors

Solutions at the back of the book for exercises would be nice. Or even partial solutions. If you have no intention of providing solutions, then selling the book for half its value would be better. After all, we are getting half of the value of the product.

The best book in the world has to be Rod Haggarty's book on the fundamentals of mathematical analysis.

I am not happy and have been on edge for the past week. I can't revise. I don't know why but I can't get my head into my books. Technically speaking I am not revising, but trying to understand the maths. This is taking ages and I can't be bothered. That is what it boils down - I can't be bothered anymore.

The position I find myself in is scary. Scary because as always I don't want to do badly and fail, but when that seems inevitable what can one do? My dad just asked me how the revision's coming along. I mumbled a reply about not being on the ball this year, and he reassured me that it will be OK. I was shocked to hear this. I have been giving everyone the opportunity to dig into me and tell me that I am a loser for doing a maths degree! But why are they refusing this glorious opportunity and instead telling me to keep at it? I think he sensed how close to the edge I am.

Despair. I am surrounded by it. Thoughts of failure are crushing. Negativity is my only refuge which makes the situation much worse.

I know what everyone is crying for me to do. Get on with it and slowly things will make sense. But what can I do when I only see darkness? What can I do when I see the clock ticking and my exam timetable staring me in the face? What can I do when thoughts of everyone else revising jump in front of my eyes? Although them questions might have a trivial answer, the process of applying them is the opposite.

Why do I blog then? Well... writing helps? My heart is clenched into a fist -- not allowing me to sleep. Thoughts pester me and images haunt me. I want it all to stop. That is why I blog. My intention now is not to blog for at least a week. If I make a definitive decision about this then I can be more forceful with myself. Blogging isn't the problem - it's the computer, which will be put away for a week now.

Do you want to know what little I have done? I didn't finish understanding stats because I stupidly spent too much time on it, and hence panicked. I have been trying to do complex analysis for the past few days and should have actually finished it on Tuesday. What happened? Well I sit at my desk, and first sort through my notes. Then I skim read the material for a few minutes - writing a few words on paper etc. After this I stretch, massage my temples and say, "What time is it?" And then, all of a sudden my stomach grumbles and so I head downstairs to eat. All the time thinking that I have revised and understood the page I had skimmed.

Downstairs, after faffing about for a large amount of time, I take ages in making myself some food. I eat downstairs and most likely watch TV and annoy who ever is there. All the time saying to myself that I will head back upstairs in the next five minutes. Five minutes turns into an hour and then I panic and rush upstairs. Before the cycle repeats itself, I have to re-read the previous pages and spend ages trying to understand them. And then I panic and try to recap everything I have learnt. Obviously I forget a certain fact and then spend ages reading about it (again).

My head is a mess. The likes of me doing a maths degree means hope remains for everyone else. I feel foolish that I could even dare to think that I want to study maths further. Thick is one word to describe me. No, seriously, I just cannot understand trivial things. Expectations are what it boils down to, and my own expectations are suffocating. Come on beans! I have algebra, real analysis, vector calculus and numerical analysis to revise and understand in two weeks! Is that possible? I had given myself 8 days for the applied maths but that has to be cut down if I am to revise algebra and real analysis.

There is too much to learn, but that is life. The biggest disappointment in everything is me. That is why I feel more upset and unable to motivate myself. I need inspiration from somewhere and the material I am revising is not providing it. That has been a big difference this semester in comparison to the previous. Only 2 out of 6 modules have been great. The other four have been horrible. Man, I should have taken tips from Bella and Milo on how to revise for something that you hate or don't have much interest for. I could go on forever, but I am waiting for my heart to calm down. Hence then I will be able to sleep.

All my posts this semester have always mentioned what I haven't been doing this semester, and what I should have done. Them thoughts tend to automatically appear when you find yourself in a similar position to myself. Regrets? No - I don't regret what I did do, but regret what I wasn't able to stay on top of. I think the university wants us to do badly - what with forcing stats and applied maths down our throat at the same time. And WHAT IS THE POINT OF CAUCHY (complex) ANALYSIS? Seriously, it is the most boring subject in the world\{stats}. Note even applied maths is potentially more interesting! (Yes this is all coming from someone who cannot understand complex analysis, hate stats and finds applied maths interesting but un-doable!) So maybe the university only want ME to do badly!

I have been known to be able to write depressing things down. Once I wrote an essay in English, full of darkness one could say, and I got an A on it! Yes, my first time ever getting an A that was, but I think the teacher felt sorry for me because of the material included. (It was just about this game you played, but the catch was that you had no choice but to play). So yes, maybe I shouldn't have taken that essay to heart? I like writing stories with a dark element to them. Obviously I am rubbish at that too, but one thing as a child I hated was when you had a "cool bad guy" in a book, and in the end the good guys won! Due to this disappointment (in for example all of James Patterson books!) I decided to write my own story with the bad guys winning. The plot was sublime and I decided to ask another author to give me his opinion on it. The cheeky so and so stole it! Yes, I would rather not name him and his book, but I lost my motivation after that day. (If you do know of such book where the baddy wins, then please do tell me! That is my book).

OK, I better stop with all the lying! Ha - I always think of the liar's paradox when I say that. I did have a plot outline, but due to "other commitments" (including laziness) I didn't pursue this matter (so there is no conspiracy about my plot being stolen). When I am on my farm with my donkeys, maybe I will give it another bash.

I might as well shut up now, referring back to the post title. I haven't done any questions on complex analysis, so when I saw the exam paper my heart blew up. I tend to leave all the example sheets for the day before the exam, and instead feed off other questions before then. For complex analysis and stats I have done no questions whatsoever. For stats that was foolish of me, but the day before the exam should hopefully set me straight. However for complex analysis I find it pointless doing the questions because I will never know how wrong I am.

I know a lot of people disagree with me on this, and have there reasons for doing so. As as a student (albeit a dense one), I need to do questions to test my understanding. How can I be expected to artificially test my understanding? I have this complex analysis book by Tall and Stewart (which I don't really like that much I think). Anyway, I am trying to use my notes and the books to understand the material. At the end of the section there is an exercise which I attempt. After attempting it with much difficulty I want to see how I can correct my mistakes and fractured understanding. But hey, at the back of the book there are no answers! I think it is imperative that we respect knowledge and items of knowledge. That is the reason why I calmly put the book to a side, rather than flinging it in agony as my impulses wanted me to.

Sigh. Rant over. That book wasn't worth 30 odd quid. £15 with no solutions is a better price tag. I think they should get students to put price tags on books! I would even give Poole's linear algebra book more value for money. (It was actually a decent book, and even had partial solutions). I think that was 30 odd quid and well worth the price tag!

What not to do: revise a subject you dislike first. And then revise another subject you dislike straight afterwards. Let us just say a sequence of wrong decisions has brought me to the place I now stand. Tomorrow is going to be a heck of a day. I mean today.

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