Here is part of an
interview with a 16-year-old girl from the
<<-With maths, 1
think that when one has to solve something, you
should do it progressively without jumping _jumping
in that way from one question to another when they
are totally different, you know ... And then, to
see how far you can go, although 1 don't know
myself! And it's precisely that, I am searching for
a way of life ... a stability ...It is perhaps
because 1 am looking for something that will make
me stable, because 1 know very well that in myself,
1 am not.>>
Mathematics offers the
possibility of gaining internal stability or
a way of testing it out. In other words, it serves
to set limits, but also sometimes to reinforce the
<<-One day I'll be
in a good mood, the next day I'll feel quite the
opposite. I know very well I'm unstable. Well,
perhaps I'm looking for something else; I think
I've found it in maths, but that now it's much more
difficult for me.
-What do you mean when you
say you are not stable?
I-t's ... 1 don't know ...
the mind and the thoughts ... in short, one day 1
will have quite bright, cheerful ideas and
everything ... the next day I've black thoughts.
And it's just that there's a contrast which comes
about inside me. It's that, generally, when it's
fine when the sun's shining, it's then that I'm
With my previous maths,
I'd found a bit of stability, much more so than I
The mathematics she is now
doing no longer enables this student to go on
struggling. Instability has set in; black thoughts
reappear in reaction to the weather. What are these
black thoughts which mathematics is expected to
keep in check?
<<-What are these
things you call black thoughts?
-I don't know ... I don't
know. Well, how strange life is! In short, it's not
always pleasant ... there are things like that. 1
try to throw myself in to my work by trying to
work, to forget all these black ideas. It's often
difficult, they always return ... afterwards, just
the same... Well, 1 think that it affects your
health. It's not easy either, everyday, In short, 1
think that everything is held in. I don't know
exactly what, well I'm ill..
. I've a little brother
and I've great difficulty in getting on with him
because he's always full of ... he's always on the
go. And then he really takes life a it comes ...
also I can't get on with him ... I'm as withdrawn
as he's outgoing!>>
Over-investment of energy in
mathematics was functioning to keep the mind busy
so that she does not think about the aggressive and
guilt-making ideas and that she knows rationally
'how far you can go' in behaviour to a