Focus on what comes next

Every single year, the moment Paper 1 of the A Level mathematics examination concludes, a furious scramble to discuss and verify things ensues nation-wide. Students checking answers excitedly with friends (and then with more friends), education forums bloated with debates over how a specific problem should be tackled, tutors joining the commotion by posting their versions of the full solutions online. This madness repeats itself when everyone has sat for the second paper a few days later.

What's the point of all these? Do they serve any meaningful purpose?

In my humble opinion, a big fat NO. There can only be two emotional outcomes arising from your excited exchanges/chatter about the math papers: positive or negative (please don't delude yourself into thinking you can remain unaffected). If you prance around in triumphant joy shortly after sharing views with others,congratulations. However, if the post-mortem neither energizes nor bring about a feeling of euphoria, chances are, your spirits have been crushed (it is only a question of to what extent). In this respect optimistic souls have their hopes shattered with the discovery of severe careless mistakes committed, while individuals initially worried about having messed things up sink into a deeper state of depression upon learning the true state of affairs are even bleaker than imagined.

This dent in confidence would therefore serve as the perfect catalyst in ensuring you remain sufficiently distracted such that you are much more likely to falter in your other remaining subject papers. Some may insist they can rein in their sinking hearts, remain completely divorced from frustrated happenings of the recent past and soldier through the rest of the A levels calmly, but how many are actually capable of doing that? Do you honestly believe god made you that cool?

Which is why I refuse to participate in this noisy circus of determining who's right/who's wrong, and instruct my charges to do the same, for the sake of maintaining their drive and composure during this critical examination period. Ignorance is bliss. Trust me, you need this bliss now more than ever to remain in the game.

But I do understand, it is only human nature to be tempted to compare workings with your peers once you exit the examination hall. So if it kills you not to do so, then go ahead and ask around for a short while. Only for a short while, say 5 minutes. 10 minutes is pushing it. In the event you come to the realization you are starting to bleed real bad, shut your ears and walk away quickly. If there is a need, run.

My advice in a nutshell: to hell with stuff which are done and over with-they belong nowhere except in the past. Focus on what comes next.

Stay sane, and strong. Peace.

(The above was also featured in the December 3rd 2012 edition of the Carnival of Mathematics )