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Desperate situation.

  1. May 12, 2008 #1
    Ok here we go.. (warning: contains angst)

    Not even sure where to begin. I guess I'll start with my current situation. I failed the first year of my maths course in university. I had several crippling addictions (MUDding and smoking weed) as well as an unhealthy and distorted mindset which resulted in my missing nearly every lecture, and even several of the exams. I applied to retake the year as an external candidate (I could not retake internally). In the run up to the january exams I still had not learned my lesson, and did precious little revision, resulting in my failing three of the four modules. The summer exams start in a week, and I have been revising like never before for around two weeks, and I intend to continue to do so for the rest of the time available to me. Some modules are available to resit in August, though I am not entirely clear on this point.

    Now for a little more background, which should explain why I still want to pursue an academic career in mathematics. First though, more negatives. I attended four secondary schools, and left unceremoniously from each. First time my parents sent me to a boarding school because I never did any homework, I was expelled from there for smoking weed, by which time my parents had moved to a different part of the country so I had to attend a different state school, during my a-levels I had personality clashes with two of my subject teachers leading to my being thrown of the respective courses, meaning maths and further maths were the only subjects I could take in the second year, whereas the minimum required to stay on was three. Finally I took my final year in another private school. A major factor which held me back during my school life was undiagnosed dyspraxia (difficulty with co-ordination, especially with regards to handwriting). It's not an excuse for my lack of performance but I think it goes some way to explaining it.

    However in each of the schools I always excelled at maths. In the first one, the size of the year was 120 pupils, and I won a mathematics competition for the whole year. In the second one, the school entered years 10 and 11 into the 'UKIMC' (United Kingdom Intermediate Mathematical Challenge). I was in year 10 at the time, and I won a 'gold certificate', which placed me in the top 6% of entrants (in my school at least only the top set were entered into the competition) as well as the 'best in school' award. During the sixth form there were no competitions as such, but I still obtained an A in maths despite my continued refusal to do any work outside of the classroom.

    Due to a mix-up with my exam results (Having taken modules in different schools I had two different exam numbers) I didn't get into the course I wanted (mathematics) at the University I wanted despite making the grades, as by the time the mistake was rectified there were no places left on the course. Instead I took a course in computer science, and thoroughly wasted my time doing you can guess what. Which takes us back to my first paragraph, but with the extra condition that I have already had not one but two years of student loans, and I believe the maximum is four.

    That was a lot of exposition. If you're still with me, the reason I have come to be posting this is that over the past few weeks, I have realised that while I may have forgotten much of what I was taught in school, I am still capable of learning fast, and learning well. What's more I've discovered I actually enjoying learning about mathematics more than I enjoy that waste of life, computer games. Whether I'm capable of learning fast enough and well enough to pass my upcoming exams remains to be seen, but even if I don't I intend on cultivating mathematical knowledge in years to come. It would be an awful shame, however, to be a keen and able mathematician while working jobs I am completely unsuitable for.

    That is my problem, can anyone give me advice?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 12, 2008 #2
    i think you do have a chance, merely because you mentioned the main part: you enjoy learning this stuff. i hate to sound cliche, but it sounds as though the real problem is the drugs. I had a similar problem throughout the entire year as well, but i began to look at is as a reward for completing things and doing well. Study my ass off sober for a good 6 hours, then get high and pass out. its not the best method, but its a way to slowly get control of the urges. furthermore, i don't know much about your learning disorder, but its definitely something to talk about with a medical professional, because these disorders can cripple concentration and slow you down. medicines are easily available today such as adderall or concerta, so definitely ask about those.

    also, as im sure you know, weed slowly but surely cripples your short term memory. so i guess what you have to consider is: are you shooting yourself in the foot by toking so often? like clearly you seem distressed that the career you want to pursue is slowly drifting away, so you have to ask yourself if its worth it.

    you just have to keep yourself above water here, because the more you panic about this, the more you're going to want to smoke. if it gets really bad, talk to someone about the addiction.
  4. May 12, 2008 #3
    I should probably make it clear, that while my weed habit went a long way as far as getting me into this situation in the first place, all I'm gonna be smoking from now until these exams are over is tobacco. The good thing is that I don't even need willpower for that, I couldn't actually afford any even if I wanted to. The bad part is that I can't reward myself with a joint after a full days work. The good that comes of that is that I believe it will have mostly left my system by the time of the exams.
  5. May 14, 2008 #4
    You should try only going to school part time. It sounds like you have a lot of interest and are not sure about what you really want to do. Get a part time job and start earning money. A little work experience never hurt anybody and it will motivate you to succeed in your classes. You don't have to rush to get a degree, especially if you have had a hard education history in the past, just take your time and make some money while you do it.
  6. May 14, 2008 #5


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    your problem is clearly stated and understood by you, it is entirely whether or not you can stop obliterating your brain on weed and take responsibility for your life.
  7. May 14, 2008 #6
    Before dedicating my life to mathematics, I was a marine. I had no idea what I wanted out of life so I figured, I'll let the marines tell me. Long story short, I ended up going into combat and now I can barely use one of my legs.

    When I was in rehab, I had to start seriously thinking about me life. Being in a room 24/7 with people loosing body parts, burned badly, or some other stuff I don't even want to remember, I decided that I have to get an education and get my life back.

    You know you need to reclaim your life, and as Mathwonk has stated, it is up to you to take responsibility for your life. It'll be hard work, but that should only motivate you to succeed. Best of luck.
  8. May 14, 2008 #7
    It seems you have potential and desire, but whatever you've been doing doesn't seem to be working. Its hard to get really good facts on weed (it can be hard to sift through scare tactics and stoners making things up) but it does affect memory and concentration, and I've heard it can diminish problem solving, ability to make connections, and coordination(not likely related to "dyspraxia", but hey...) So if you ever do get money for that joint after a long day, it will probably affect you the next day in class. Some people can do it, but I'd wait for you to get your feet on the ground and even then I wouldn't recommend it. I don't mean to turn this into a forum about drugs, but good luck succeeding in college or anything else you end up doing. As for the "personality clashes" with teachers just learn to keep quite. Go to EVERY lecture if possible, and if possible get a job to help with tuition and those student loans.
  9. May 14, 2008 #8
    Stop smoking pot.

    The problem with this drug is that when used regularly, it negatively affects your mind 24/7. The drug is stored in your fat, and does not get eliminated from the body quickly like, say, alcohol. If you've been smoking regularly and then stop, make sure to stop for good. It can take a month or longer for the drug to be entirely out of your system after you quit regular smoking...it can take several months for your mind to return to normal.
  10. May 15, 2008 #9


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    You MUST stop thinking of weed as a reward.
  11. May 15, 2008 #10


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    Hi Gwilim! :smile:

    Your immediate problem is the likelihood of your failing next week's exams.

    From the work you've shown us, that seems quite likely … you clearly have ability, but that's no help when you keep coming across things that you missed in lectures … and there are no lectures you can now go to.

    You need to work through as many exam-type questions as you can, and get help either from a personal tutor or from this forum … which is of course what you're doing … but there probably isn't enough time.

    Can you retake everything in August? If so, I suggest you abandon any module you're likely to fail in next week's exams, and then go to a "retreat" where there's no tv or other stimulations or attractions for three months.

    To put it scientifically … if you don't change the parameters of the experiment, you can't expect a different result. :redface:

    If you can't retake, and this is your last chance, then the important thing is to stop working for good grades, and just work to convert any likely failed module into a pass. :smile:
  12. May 18, 2008 #11
    So I haven't posted here for a couple of days, which may seem odd considering the predicament I'm in but there are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly I recently came down with a killer sore throat which knocked me out for two days straight, and is still affecting me. Sods law in full force. There's good news too though, I've managed to lay my hands on a textbook with two whole chapters dealing with differential equations, which is Tuesdays exam (I'm writing this on Sunday night). The past papers I have all follow the same format. Here is last years paper: www-maths.swan.ac[dot]uk/exampapers/MAA121-2007.pdf
    There are five questions and marks are given for the four strongest answers. The first one dealing with first and second order linear homogenous DEs, the second is non-homogenous second order DEs, and the third is split into three parts, a homogenous first order DE with variable coefficients, a non-homogenous first order DE with variable coefficients, and a question concerning a 'real life' problem for which a DE must be first constructed and then solved. I am now very happy wit the first two types of question, and though still a little shaky on part two of the third it's within my grasp. Of the remaining two questions one is partly concerned using the 'power series method' to solve a problem and the other likewise involves using the Taylor series, both of which are new to me. While my aim is nominally to get the highest mark I possibly can, it is ultimately to pass the exam. The pass mark for the module is 40%, but since 20% of the mark is made up of coursework which I have not supplied I need 50%, and I think this is within my grasp.
    My question here is one of strategy. I have a single day left between now and the exam. Should I consolidate what I've learned already and keep practicing until I can be sure of full marks in the first three questions, or attempt to learn how to solve the fourth or fifth, and if so which? Also, would it be more helpful to work through to bedtime tomorrow or spend the evening resting, bearing in mind the exam takes place in the morning?
    Obviously answers given in the next 8 hours or so would be most useful, so if this is in the wrong section and a mod happens to see it I would be grateful if they moved it to the appropriate section.
    Many thanks in advance for any advice.
  13. May 18, 2008 #12


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    You been given the answer several times. Stop smoking weed. It doesn't help. All it does is lower the ability of your brain to work properly for weeks on end. It is not a reward. You are effectively punishing yourself every time you light up.

    I knew a guy in my freshman physics class (a physics major) who thought that the weed didn't affect his ability. He failed general physics twice (he was a smart intelligent person, but refused to give up weed.) He know longer is a physics student, but he still smokes.

    As mathwonk put it, it is entirely up to you. If you want to succeed in your career, you cannot only be talented at it, much more importantly, you must be passionate about it. As long as weed takes precedence, you cannot possibly have enough passion to be succesful, no matter what your field is.

    The choice is up to you. What is more important? If you have trouble quitting, please get help. Good luck to you in the future.
  14. May 18, 2008 #13
    This is a false statement!


    "Sagan was a user of marijuana. Under the pseudonym "Mr. X", he wrote an essay concerning cannabis smoking in the 1971 book Marihuana Reconsidered, whose editor was Sagan's close friend Lester Grinspoon.[19][20] In his essay, Sagan wrote how marijuana use had helped to inspire some of his works and enhance sensual and intellectual experiences."

    Telling this kid to stop use recreational cannabis is probably a good idea, but please don't try to bolster the case with misinformation. Other great scientists who have been outspoken about their positive experience with cannabis besides Sagan include Richard Feynman, and Francis Crick (discovered DNA).

    I understand this is a sensitive issue, but please do not give me an infraction for "advocating the use of illegal drugs" since I am instead only fighting against misinformation.

    Before you try to refute me by saying that these great scientists are an exception (since you believe in intelligence), instead realize that the kid you are giving advice too could be an exception as well. Before you say "If he was destined to be great, then he wouldn't be having these school problems as an adult" but then I would point to geniuses like Karl Weierstrass (mathematician) or Immanuel Kant (philosopher) who did not begin to display their truly exceptional capabilities until over age 50.
    Last edited: May 18, 2008
  15. May 18, 2008 #14


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    And how do you know that any of them might not have been even greater if not under the influence of drugs?

    Quite frankly, the OP's own words demonstrate that his addiction to weed is hindering his academics. Time to break the addiction.
  16. May 18, 2008 #15


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    Crosson, read these quotes from the OP:

    Once a person has a problem with an addiction, there will always be that little devil on their shoulder saying, "Go on, a little won't hurt!" Given Gwilim's circumstance, I think your post is way out of line. Weed is hampering his ability to get anywhere near Sagan's or Feynman's level of achievement.

    Gwilim is well aware he needs to stop smoking weed. I sincerely hope he can quit it.
  17. May 18, 2008 #16
    Yea, some people can use drugs on occasion and be unaffected by it. In my experience though, there are very few who can do this. The last thing this guy needs is more justification for his drug use. Drug users are always excellent at justifying their decision to get high (use it only as a "reward", use it only on weekends, it's harmless anyway, etc).

    Don't add fuel to the fire.
  18. May 18, 2008 #17
    Excellent counter-argument! But to be fair, they themselves thought that exactly the opposite was true.

    It's easy to blame the recreational use, and it sounds like this guy has probably sat through a large number of lectures that repeat this blame. But being a functional addict is better then being a dysfunctional addict, and we can all see the fallacy of blaming all life's problems on that one little vice that we can't seem to quit.

    My advice is: don't let the difficulty of quitting stop you from at least starting down the path of filling your life with positive activities.
    Last edited: May 18, 2008
  19. May 19, 2008 #18
    "It doesn't really have any bad effects on me. And besides, I can stop any time I want."

    But anyway, this is besides the point. The original poster talked of "addiction", not "casual use".
  20. May 19, 2008 #19
    Uh guys weed has not been an issue since the bump 8 hours ago. I haven't smoked any in a week now. Let me sum up that last post again. Tomorrows paper on DEs includes 5 questions and I'm marked on answers to 4 of them. I've obtained the knowledge necessary to solve the first 3 questions on the paper, question 4 involves power series and question 5 involves the Taylor expansion. Should I spend the day practicing the 3, try to learn about power series or try to learn about Taylors expansion, bearing in mind I need 50% on this paper? Should I work through to the night or rest in the evening?

    I'm going to spend a few hours now practicing examples of question 3, but how I should spend my afternoon and my evening are still very relevant questions.

    Edit: I can't help but give my opinion on the discussion going on here. It's funny that nobody has said a word about MUDs yet, which of the two was by far the most harmful and the bigger time sink. If you don't know what that is, think a primitive version of WoW. As far as weed goes responsible use is key, and were I to pass these exams and get back to university I'm sure I could get away with infrequent weekend/evening use. As I say it was also an unhealthy nihilistic mindset which contributed to my near-agoraphobia. As long as my priority is lectures, followed by typical chores such as keeping my room tidy and working on the state of my health, I don't see the harm in using my recreation time as I see fit. The problem comes when I wake up at 12 and immediately skin one up, rather than if I were to get back from a day of lectures, cook dinner, and skin one up at 7pm. Today though this is all speculation and I need strategy advice for the upcoming exam.
    Last edited: May 19, 2008
  21. May 19, 2008 #20
    If you have a test tomorrow, get some sleep.

    Then, if you are comfortable with the material of the first 3 questions, take a look at the Taylor series tomorrow morning.
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