I don’t like studying in groups because I don’t like feeling like I’m being held back by other people. It usually turns into people just chatting. I can’t go at my own pace. Most of the time I just seek out solitude so I can study, and think, and focus.

I have ADHD, so I have to actively fight distractions. I know what I need to do to stay on track. I work hard as hell at my school work.

If I’m asked to work in a group, my brain pretty much just shuts off, and I can’t get anything done. How can I focus on solving a problem while also having to listen to what other people are saying? How can I work through a problem without someone just giving me the answer?

I feel like forcing students into this model of “social-learner” can be frustrating for students, and honestly some of the rhetoric is really ableist, or at least biased towards “social” and “extroverted” people being “successful” and “normal.”

Today I had an interview with the director of a cohort program at my school, to see if I would be a “good-fit.”

He asked how I usually study. My answer was “alone.” And I felt like I was immediately written off, and honestly like he was being combative toward me. He showed me the software for getting group study sessions set up and told me, “I have it set up this way so that no one has an excuse to not study together, you know, like they’re “shy” or whatever. You used to study English, so I’m guessing you probably have good social skills.”

During this exchange I smiled and nodded politely. I wanted to say, “No, actually I have horrible social skills. I’m shy, neuroatypical, introverted, and have terrible self-esteem. Not quite sure what studying English has to do with “social skills” but okay, sure. Also not sure why you are placing a value judgement on social skills in this context. I certainly don’t need some dude who doesn’t know me telling me how I need to behave in order to be ‘successful.’”

It was just a very bizarre and negatively charged exchange. It was very judgmental. And it made me want to study by myself forever and ever and never have to talk to people again.

Oh, and he told me I would probably not be a very good fit. I said, “Yeah I guess you’re right.”

I don’t think that everyone should become a mathematician, but I do believe that many students don’t give mathematics a real chance. I did poorly in math for a couple of years in middle school; I was just not interested in thinking about it.
I can see that without being excited mathematics can look pointless and cold. The beauty of mathematics only shows itself to more patient followers.
Interview with Maryam Mirzakhani, the brilliant Iranian mathematician who was the first woman to win the Fields Medal (via curiosamathematica)