Sunday, July 20, 2008

How to say that I study Mathematics

I have on numerous occasions, commented on peoples reactions upon hearing that I study Maths. These range from shock, admiration, disgust, paranoia and on I can go. The most common reaction though tends to be: "You must be really clever then. I can't do Maths if my life depended on it. Brain box..." And on they go, embarrassing us in the process. (If you were suffering from low self esteem or were feeling down, you could always say that you study maths to cheer yourself up! I mean, some people will say not nice things and others will back off in fear, but there's always a nice word or two that's thrown in!)

There was a time when I got annoyed at comments claiming that I was a brain box, namely because I wasn't feeling particularly clever at Maths! However, there can be no rest for the wicked, and then the comments about me being stupid to study maths started, and that I should transfer course. These I confess were worse and more demoralising, but I have been braving them as they come along.

Over the two years that I have studied maths, I have started by shifting nervously on the spot and whispering "I study Maths" when asked, and then bracing myself for the loud and horrified reaction from the person who asked. Sometimes the horror turns into ridiculous positive comments, but "you're mad" is always echoed.

However, as I started to mature mathematically (!) I began to scare people when they asked me what I studied. I mean everyone's allowed having their fun right?! This was especially fun on trains, where I used to sometimes take my work out and do some sums. I have an erm... bad habit of talking to myself when I study maths, so this further freaked commuters! And then when I left a book open with beautiful sums, they couldn't take it any more. However my evil side wanted more, which involved talking about maths to a friend who was travelling with me! (Ha, I confess to deliberately having maths conversations on buses to see peoples reactions.)

Sometimes though, as I read my text book on Complex Analysis, I got lucky and bumped into someone who was also enthusiastic about Maths. (Might I add though, this is very rare!)

This game was modified for when relatives or friend asked me what I studied. I said maths and when they mocked me, I sometimes started talking to them about prime numbers or other times about groups. Why? Well no one wants to be sat next to a relative who obviously didn't want to be there? As soon as I got to the part about group operations, people would excuse themselves! (Trust me, if you ever want to be left alone for whatever reason, try this! If you never want the person to bug you again, follow them for a bit and talk about cool maths...)

Yes, I am further displaying my freaky nature, but I have yet to follow someone! (Seriously though, do people have any idea about how many hearts a mathematician has, as they persist in breaking it every time they ask us the question "Ew, why maths?")

Now as I am mathematically two years old (still immature) but with lines of time cleverly disguised on my face, I have come up with a solution to this problem. Next time when someone asks you what you study, look them in the eye (with a serious expression on your face) and clearly say, "I study Mathematics at university". Full stop. Then watch and wait for their response.

Don't laugh and mutter "I study Maths", or even whisper it. Say it seriously and they will take it seriously. (Well there might be a few outliers, but we'll put that down to you using the wrong tone of voice!)

When did I come up with this plan? The other day actually, as I was stupid enough to laugh "haha I haha study haha maths...haha". That's not very funny is it? And the person thought I was joking too, which might be the reason that he didn't take me seriously. Actually no. I am not going to defend him because he's the type of person who feels that only he can do the job at hand, and no one else can. Well obviously if no one has taught me how to use a certain computer package then I won't be able to use it, but you have to give me the chance to learn. Grr. Yes, due to this person looking down at me and assuming I am an incompetent fool (which I can be), I got thinking.

You don't have to be smug when you say this, and there's no harm in smiling. Just remember: It's not Maths, but Mathematics. And no laughing or whispering. Now we shall see how the tables turn. *cue evil laugh* Erm I mean, we have look out for ourselves, wouldn't you agree?


Anonymous said...

I understand your feeling... I was criticised by my classmate for getting 75% in Maths test. I replied her by saying that no matter how low I score, I'm still better than her, since maths is my life partner. Furthermore, loving it doesn't mean I'm 100% a math genius. And I told my friends I will be doing math in uni and they go 'errr...' it was quite an insult, and it was hard to ignore them.

Beans said...

Hi anonymous,

I wouldn't take it as an insult, and also don't ignore them. Whenever my school or college classmates called me stupid for applying to study Maths, I suggested that they should apply too! (And then you obviously start talking about how amazing maths is!) What people don't understand they make fun off.

You see not everyone is as lucky as you, for you have discovered what you want to do at university and have a passion for something.

I'm glad to hear that you will be studying maths at university. :) (Any idea as to where you want to go?)

smilitude said...

lolz! I am a first year mathematics major, and I used to face all these a lot! But I didnt know thats universal! :P

The worst part : my teachers are so boring, I gave up studying in the middle of the year. Now I am trying to come back, but its hard! :(

Beans said...

Yep - this is a very universal thing!

Where exactly are you studying? (I would guess America due to the word "major"... ).

It is hard, but a little each day can you take you a long way. (That's advice that I need to take myself!)

Anonymous said...

hey, i study mathematics aswell, and always get weird reactions from people. im in my first year of uni, im enjoying my course soo much! im so glad i know what i want to do, and i'm also glad that im not alone!

Beans said...


It's always nice to meet another enthusiastic mathematician. I was talking to a friend the other day and she narrated an occasion when a non-mathematician had remarked that she said that she studied maths if she didn't want to talk to people!

I'm glad that you're enjoying your course and best of luck with everything. :) What exactly do you want to do?

khadija said...

hey, i posted a comment a few weeks ago, i want to teach maths, hopefully to secondary school and sixth formers. it would be soo cool!

Beans said...

Hi Khadija,

I was initially thinking along them lines too (so it is a cool thing!!), but now I'm leaning towards sixth formers more than secondary school.

I think I prefer learning maths more than teaching it, and would prefer to teach at a higher level.

smilitude said...

Nah.. I am not from America, I am from Bangladesh.. University of Dhaka..

Actually we call 'major' as 'honours' here. I wasnt sure if thats universal, so I used 'major'.. :P

Anonymous said...

At least he's modest.....