The following transpired in the comments to the (currently closed) Stopping the "Will I need this for the test" question (emphasis added). robjohn notes that "teaching math" is not listed in the official on-topic list. I propose to add it. For simplicity, please upvote the question to indicate general agreement, downvote it to indicate general disagreement, and up/downvote answers to indicate agreement/disagreement with things more specific to said answers.


This is not intended to be a discussion about the closure of the specific question I linked to.

@dfeuer: I agree, and although the titles of a couple of math courses are mentioned, this is not necessarily a mathematical issue. Furthermore, while quite important, teaching math is not on-topic on this site. That is why several people have suggested that this would better be asked on academia.stackexchange.com. – robjohn♦ 14 mins ago

@robjohn, it's not on that list but teaching math seems generally to be considered on-topic here (and should be added to the list). – dfeuer 11 mins ago

@dfeuer: suggest adding "teaching math" to the on-topic list on meta. – robjohn♦ 3 mins ago

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    $\begingroup$ When did teaching math become off-topic? $\endgroup$
    – Isaac
    Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 19:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Isaac (This is somewhat offtopic in this thread, but still) do you think the linked question is on-topic on MSE, btw? $\endgroup$
    – Grigory M
    Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 20:13
  • $\begingroup$ @GrigoryM, could you explain why you think well-asked questions about teaching mathematics will generate discussion rather than answers? If the OP asks how to teach something and three people give three approaches, then everyone wins, right? $\endgroup$
    – dfeuer
    Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 20:38
  • $\begingroup$ I am not a math teacher, but 1. I enjoy explaining math to others and 2. I find that reading about how to teach math can give me new ways to think about math. $\endgroup$
    – dfeuer
    Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 20:40
  • $\begingroup$ @GrigoryM: I'd say that the particular linked question is too subjective and/or too much of a discussion question for the Stack Exchange format... it also doesn't feel particularly math-specific to me, but I'm less sure about it. $\endgroup$
    – Isaac
    Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 22:19
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    $\begingroup$ Those who want an audience of mathematics educators should ask at mathematicsteachingcommunity.math.uga.edu. While the activity there is very low (compared with MSE), I believe that the people there are more qualified to answer questions on mathematics education. (Warning: my impression is that the site focuses on the American educational system.) $\endgroup$
    – JRN
    Commented Jan 14, 2014 at 0:53
  • $\begingroup$ (Tangentially) related: meta.math.stackexchange.com/q/12470 $\endgroup$
    – Grigory M
    Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 18:50
  • $\begingroup$ Personally, I think it would be a great addition to officially reflect agreement that it is acceptable to discuss the teaching of mathematics. I don't have in mind edufads here, rather, such questions as: "how would you create a matrix with eigenvectors of a particular type" etc... Example creation is an interesting topic, for the more advanced students using this ostensibly teaching site, seeing the man behind the curtain could unlock certain ideas which might not be evident through the mainstream discussion of PSQ or even the better motivation seeking questions. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 18, 2014 at 19:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ it is not acceptable, this is second rate $\endgroup$
    – user88576
    Commented Jan 19, 2014 at 20:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @KarlKäfer, what do you mean? $\endgroup$
    – dfeuer
    Commented Jan 19, 2014 at 21:55

2 Answers 2


I was asked in a comment elsewhere on meta to address this question...so I am.

The "official on-topic list" is something that has been added more recently than the last time I ever looked at the faq, so it is not anything that I have ever given thought to. The SE team seems to like to mildly tinker with site mechanics from time to time, so I would caution against taking things like this too seriously. In particular, I think that what is on-topic is for all the sufficiently reputable users of the site to judge with their use of closure votes. However, if there is near unanimous agreement that something is on-topic, it seems like it could only be helpful to put it in the faq.

I think that math education questions should be on-topic for this site. I don't want to say always because I don't think that "math questions" should always be on-topic for the site: there are further nuances involved. But -- and isn't this what the current discussion is really about? I think it is -- a question ought not to be regarded as off-topic for the site purely because it concerns math education rather than math noneducation content. As I wrote recently in another answer, though we don't call it this, I think that math.SE is essentially a math teaching website, so the idea that questions about teaching mathematics ought to be seen as off-purpose to a site whose purpose is teaching mathematics....It feels a little weird.

(If I reflect on this for a while, the idea that math education quesstions could be more appropriate on meta.math.SE than math.SE pops out, but I think it is clear that this is not the intended meaning of "meta", which rather refers to site mechanics and governance.)

So without feeling the need or desire to delineate specific boundaries (are we sure that it will be helpful or necessary to do so?), I would say that I take a quite inclusive view on the on-topicness of math education questions, and I encourage others to do the same.

  • $\begingroup$ +1. You've thoroughly covered what I'd only grazed the surface of when I commented "When did teaching math become off-topic?" above. $\endgroup$
    – Isaac
    Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 5:04

On the current situation (as I see it)

First of all, some questions related to teaching mathematics are on-topic already: questions with actual mathematical contents (what I mean is something like 'how to prove [something] elementary', 'how can I explain / motivate [something] [on some level]' etc).

There are also somewhat more... soft questions related to mathematical education (one example is linked in your post). These are not exactly mathematical questions (at least, not strictly speaking mathematical), they can't have one 'right' answer — only more or less useful suggestions, they are more like discussion topics.

Nowadays these question exist in some kind of 'gray area': they are usually converted to community wiki mode and sometimes closed (but frequently left open) — it really depends on the questions and community reaction, it seems.

On proposal

OK, the first part was (intended to be) purely descriptive. Now some opinions.

  1. 'Mathematical' teaching question are on-topic already, there is no need to add something to faq to allow them.
  2. What is left is [mostly] the kind of questions that are much more subjective / opinion-based/discussion-y. As SE help puts it 'Avoid questions that are primarily opinion-based, or that are likely to generate discussion rather than answers'. I agree that some of these questions can exist in some 'gray area' and be allowed on case by case basis — but certainly don't support promoting their status.
  3. It doesn't look like Math.SE has exactly too few questions nowadays, does it? So in general, staying more focused and not extending the scope even further might be a good idea. If a question is somewhere like in the gray area of Math.SE but definitely on-topic on Academia.SE (like the question linked in the OP, perhaps) — maybe it should be better asked on Academia.SE.

P.S. Incidentally, I teach math — and certainly find discussing teaching questions with colleagues interesting and useful — I just don't think Math.SE is an appropriate place for [most of] such discussions.


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