I have been thinking for a while about off-topic questions on Math.SE and feel that it would be a good idea to add sites to the Math.SE page to handle the following types of questions:

  1. Educational Questions (What is the best way to learn... Where can I find this book... etc...)

  2. Math Culture/News Questions (Why did Newton and Leibniz Fight?... Who created this formula etc, Where can I find stuff on this topic/who is involved with this topic...?

  3. General Mathematical "Stuff" (Philosophical Implications of a theorem etc...)

I understand a lot of you consider this thing to be very unproductive/unnecessary and I too agree it should not be part of the main site however I feel that there HAS to be some type of forum to handle these types of questions. If Math.SE could create multiple forums one for the normal SE related questions, and others for these "off-topic" but still relevant questions I feel it would be a good change.


  1. We have a huge number of users. We already have a strong base of people who could contribute

  2. It is productive. Being able to effectively give advice on how to learn math, discussing general math philosophy/opinions debating over methods etc... may not be equivalent to problem solving but it helps establishes thoughts in the area and makes for interesting discussion.

  3. Stack Exchange is Cool. Lets face it. This is one of the best sites on the internet for this type of discussion. It is stylish, easy to use, well moderated etc... If we moderate the other forums as highly as we moderate our current one we will have a generic math site that is much better than ever before.

For example: Rather than deleting and closing a question about education on the main SE if we move it instead to the education Math SE and visa versa we can maintain good high quality forums in both areas. It IS VERY POSSIBLE to create a high quality site that doesn't have only Objective content. The tags of "it is unclear what is being asked", "this is off topic in this particular forum" etc... still apply and can be used to moniter the other sites effectively.

The internet really does need this type of forum especially for research oriented discussion and Math.SE would be my first choice of website to support it.



This is exactly the kind of thing that we as a site shouldn't have to deter. Sure this question was off topic on the main forum but it certainly could have been handled very elegantly if there was another forum for the topic and chances are the same people who put the question on hold and rejected it would be answering it happily instead if it were in an appropriate forum.

  • $\begingroup$ Are you proposing creating a forum, or a new Stack Exchange site? $\endgroup$
    – apnorton
    Jul 5 '13 at 23:20
  • $\begingroup$ A forum. Basically like a tab on the main Math.SE site that you can click to get to the non-problem solving related questions $\endgroup$ Jul 5 '13 at 23:30
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ This is an interesting thought, but it seems very far away from the model that SE has developed so far. $\endgroup$
    – davidlowryduda Mod
    Jul 6 '13 at 0:41
  • $\begingroup$ Sounds almost like a wiki. For the community. Hmm... $\endgroup$
    – Alexander Gruber Mod
    Jul 6 '13 at 8:58
  • $\begingroup$ SE sire are Q&A sties not discussion sites. For a forum site it would be more suitable to use something like discourse.org $\endgroup$
    – Kaveh
    Jul 8 '13 at 22:16

I oppose this proposal because what you are suggesting is a sub-optimal solution.

Perhaps there should be some sort of sub-structure based around the history of mathematics, and another for the philosophy of mathematics (arguably these are served by tags...maybe we could simply bend the rules for these tags?). However, I believe that the "Educational Questions" you are talking about fall into two catagories. Either they are suitable for MSE, or they are not ever suitable, either for MSE or for any other forum.

I see nothing wrong with a "What is the best way to learn..." question, so long as it is posed well. For example, don't ask "What is the best way to learn group theory?", instead the question should show some effort of your own (the whole "effort" thing has been pushed a lot on the main site, especially with regard to homework questions, but is true on all types of questions). A better question might be "I want to learn group theory and have bought Robinson's book `A Course in the Theory of Groups'. It seems a bit advanced though. Can anyone suggest a lower-level resource?" Anyway, everyone will tell you what they think the best way to learn group theory is in their answer!

Now, if you fail a subject (for example, Algebra 1...) then you should talk to someone at your uni about this. They are better placed to help you out then a bunch of people on the internet, plus your uni probably has some structure in place to support you. A bunch of people on the internet are not going to tell you anything you didn't know already ("study" and "get a good tutor" pretty much cover everything, and you knew that already!). So these questions are not really suitable for here.

Finally, questions about trying to find a book are usually trying to find a book to download for free, illegally. Such a question is not suitable for MSE, or any other website for that matter! Of course, this could be made more appropriate. For example, say I wanted to learn some functional analysis and was skint then I could ask,

"I want to learn functional analysis. I know the standard book is Rudin, but I am skint and have no access to a library. I know I can download Hatchers book on Algebraic Topology from his website. Is there a similar set-up for a good quality functional analysis text? Or are there any good lecture notes which I can find for free online?"


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .