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Studying maths in a noisy environment

  1. Aug 31, 2013 #1
    I'm currently about to be a university student, and I live at home. I have a 9 year old sister, as well as 1 other sibling and my mother who live with me. Unfortunately for me, I live in a very kid-friendly area, meaning my 9 year old sister has quite a few friends who come over often, and they often make quite a bit of noise. I always tell them to be quiet, but I feel bad for doing so, and hey, sometimes they don't listen.

    I'm wondering how can I deal with this noisy environment? I've bought a big headphone set and tried listening to music, but I found classical music to be too distracting, and I wasn't able to think on the harder problems. Music with lyrics I found to be too distracting also. I then tried to listen to white noise only, and this worked for around 2 hours and then I started to get a headache.

    Does anyone have any suggestions on what type of music to listen to, or how to deal with this? I hate studying at a library, I only study there when I have free periods at university, other than that, I'd rather stay at home.

    Thank you
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 31, 2013 #2


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    Science Advisor

    What's wrong with the library?
  4. Aug 31, 2013 #3
    The one near me is only open 2 days and it has no quiet study areas, meaning it's just the same environment at home. The other one is around an hour cycle away from my house, and is very small and quiet, but opening times are around 10-3pm... not long. Also, I'm just more comfortable at home, I can quickly use the internet if need be and be more efficient.
  5. Aug 31, 2013 #4


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    Do you have your own room? If so, you could close the door and put earplugs in.
  6. Aug 31, 2013 #5
    Studying only at home is a bad idea. You need to connect with other students, collaborate and have a presence on campus. I think it would be better to plan a 8-12 hour day on campus to do your classes, homework and serious studying.
  7. Aug 31, 2013 #6
    A few things...

    1) I think ignoring distractions is something you'll learn as you go along. I used to get distracted by music, but now I find that if I have noise cancelling headphones I have no trouble ignoring distractions, and I don't get distracted by the music--it's just background noise.
    2) If you really can't use music, earplugs (either in-ear or over-ear) might be worth trying. It won't completely block out the noise but it will muffle it at least. I know of at least one person who does this. (If you go this avenue it's probably worth looking for some really comfy ear-plugs. Don't just get the cheapest ones you can find.)
    3) I personally find that I'm best at ignoring distractions when I have a mountain of homework and deadlines that I'm really worried about being able to meet. When my choices are to either focus or fail, it's much easier to quit whining about distractions and just get stuff done.
  8. Aug 31, 2013 #7
    I'll most certainly do that on some days, but I don't plan to do it everyday.

    I'll give earplugs a try, thanks.
  9. Aug 31, 2013 #8
  10. Aug 31, 2013 #9
    I bought these for a whopping $12 for a similar reason. Thus far, they have worked perfectly well, and are surprisingly comfortable, considering the cost.
  11. Sep 1, 2013 #10
    Just put on some Merzbow and crank it up.
  12. Sep 1, 2013 #11
    Brown noise with some Vivaldi or Mozart- Works wonders
    White noise is irritating and doesn't work for many pitches.
  13. Sep 1, 2013 #12
    If you are not used to listening to music at other times, suddenly doing it while studying will not work very well, as you found. It is a fairly simple solution, though, if you start gradually. People (like me) who use it as background sound have probably been listening to music all the time for years. Different kinds of music will work for different people - it doesn't have to be something stereotypically "quiet" or "relaxing."

    Many universities have quiet study areas, often in the main library, although you said you don't like the library for some reason. I don't know about yours, but our library has free wifi (as does most of the campus). Some math departments will have study areas of their own, depending on the size of the university. You may even find some friendly place in another department, if you spy around. Alternatively, I have a friend that does a great deal of his math at a quiet coffee-shop with free wifi. While it is important to also feel comfortable studying at home, you should definitely experiment with the other options available to you.
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2013
  14. Sep 2, 2013 #13


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    If you are unable to study at home due to having a younger sibling and living in a child-friendly area, perhaps you need to reconsider living at home during university. Do you not have the option of living on campus or getting your own apartment?
  15. Sep 2, 2013 #14
    I'm not sure if this has been said already, but you could try in-ear headphones. These block more than your normal headphones.

    However, I think your best option if to leave your home. It's not study friendly, from what you said.
  16. Sep 2, 2013 #15
    I completely agree... use to stay on campus at least during the day... at beginning it can be strange, but then it becomes normal, you have libraries with the material you need and you have exchange with other students: this is the most important thing of the University, even more in my opinion than lectures... it is stimulating and you can discuss what you don't understand or you have not clear... or you can explain others, which also helps clarifying to yourself (you understand something only when you can explain that to your grandma, remember)
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