How do I motivate myself to do math again? [closed]

I have been thinking of asking for help for a few months now but posting in a public forum like this is intimidating.
Still, I am currently in a university studying mathematics as an undergrad. I took quite a few knocks a few months back when I failed to qualify for the universities of my choice and all the hard work for mathematical olympiads and hours of practice went up in smoke.Out of frustration and disappointment, I left math for a few months,doing nothing but staring at the ceiling. After coming to the university,I then tried doing math again and after a months, I tried to study linear algebra and analysis. I studied 30 pages of Rudin and then stopped; and then I studied those 30 pages, each time those 30 pages seemed to be as difficult as before but less interesting and now I am stuck.

I came to the conclusion that I cannot do math OR I have lost the motivation to. How do I get back to studying math?


Thank you everyone for your answers and comments. I have read them and I will try to get back up.

Answer

Disclaimer:

If you didn’t consult your friends and/or parents on whether your situation is serious enough (i.e. requires specialist attention), then do it now. Major depressive disorder may have detrimental effects on your life and you should treat it accordingly. On the other hand, mild depression, melancholia, etc. may be temporary and may not require any professional treatment. Often those are normal human reactions and are nothing to be ashamed of.

Thanks to @EricLippert for his comment.


It depends on what motivates you generally. Naturally, first

  • Get enough sleep (but not too much).
  • Keep you body healthy (within reason, esp. if you have some disabilities).

As to the motivation, I observe three main factors:

  1. Pleasure – Math is fun and beautiful.
  2. Need – we (the world) need your math.
  3. Community – there are some cool guys among mathematicians.

You need to find what exactly works for you, but here are some tips:

  1. Math is fun and beautiful.
    • Look for some nice proofs, like those in Proofs from the Book.
    • Read Gödel, Escher, Bach.
    • There are also comics about math, e.g. Logicomix (one of the authors is a world-class researcher in theoretical computer science).
    • Find some other nice mathematical books, you can find some recommendations here.
    • Find some beautiful mathematical facts, you can find some here.
    • Try some nice online presentations like How to Fold a Julia Fractal.
    • There are even television series like Numb3rs; to put it mildly, it’s not my favorite, but who knows, maybe it would work for you (it doesn’t really matter what the IMDb ranking is, only if it remotivates you again).
    • Look at some highly voted questions and answers here, at math.SE, some are real pearls.
  2. I don’t think this needs much commentary. There are many, many articles on why math is important and why it would be good for you to know it (and I think that would be even more so in the near future). I’ve never been interested in those, so I’m unable to recommend any, but try searching for it.
  3. Sometimes doing things is fun when in group, and math is no exception.
    • Imagine how music bands stick together, mathematicians very often collaborate and this is for a reason. One of them is that doing something with peers is just more fun than being alone in the cave.
    • Mathematicians like Tim Gowers and Terence Tao write blogs. You can learn a lot from them (but it might be complicated).
    • It’s easier to get motivated when you have some examples of other motivated people (but be aware that you might also get demotivated).
    • Why don’t you hang around with “us, the cool guys“? Answering and asking questions might also be a motivating experience (if you ignore those lazy bums that come only to get their homework solved).

Finally, this goes without saying, but I feel that is should be emphasized here: there are other domains, one of these might suit you better, do you really want to study math? If the only reason is that you do not wish to throw away all the hard work you did, then there are some good news: the skill you have acquired will stay with you in some form, or simply put, it made you smarter. Moreover, areas like physics, engineering or computer science use math a lot, and the math you know will directly help you there. Mathematics is everywhere, you don’t need to be labeled as a mathematician to do mathematics.

I hope this helps and good luck! $\ddot\smile$

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