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The tag's info reads

Discrete mathematics is the study of mathematical structures that are fundamentally discrete rather than continuous.

For an overview, see the Wikipedia entry on Discrete mathematics.

In my eyes defining discrete mathematics is not far, difficulty wise, from defining mathematics. This is partially due to the broadness of it. This very broadness is one of the reasons why I think this tag is bad. (We don't have a (mathematics) tag, do we?).
Often times questions are tagged (discrete-mathematics) alone which is not saying much and when they are tagged in conjunction with other tags, then discrete mathematics tag becomes superfluous. This is so common that I think it's not necessary to provide examples.

Another problem is that this tag is very attractive due to the fact that its name is the name of the very courses people take. This alone wouldn't be a problem, there are other tags whose names are common courses' names too. The difference between (discrete-mathematics) and those other tags is that the other tags' names are specific enough to be used as tags.

I believe it should be deprecated.

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  • $\begingroup$ believe the tag background info can be edited; that came up when I carried over an MO tag and it had no info here $\endgroup$ – Will Jagy Oct 12 '14 at 17:05
  • $\begingroup$ see discussion with Willie Wong at the very end of math.stackexchange.com/questions/255834/… $\endgroup$ – Will Jagy Oct 12 '14 at 17:11
  • $\begingroup$ not sure what deprecated means; if it means not allow any more, my comments don't apply...That's life $\endgroup$ – Will Jagy Oct 12 '14 at 17:12
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    $\begingroup$ While I'm not likely to think of adding "discrete-mathematics" as a tag to my own Questions, it is a much used category in college courses, and broad (it being one way to split up the entire subject of mathematics). The Wiki entry could stand some improvement, I'll grant. But I don't see the breadth of the category as problematic enough to be deprecated. $\endgroup$ – hardmath Oct 16 '14 at 18:28
  • $\begingroup$ I agree that discrete mathematics is very broad term. It is broad enough to cover even parts of mathematics that are traditionally considered continuous. For example, in constructive real analysis, reals numbers are represented lambda terms (of a lambda calculus) which represent computable cauchy sequence of rationals. See corn.cs.ru.nl $\endgroup$ – Abhishek Anand Oct 20 '14 at 3:10
  • $\begingroup$ FWIW, I edited the wiki and the excerpt to indicate that more specific tags should be used. $\endgroup$ – user147263 Oct 22 '14 at 2:15
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Indeed, the contents of the tag are a mishmash of everything that gets taught under Discrete Mathematics label somewhere. At this moment, the first page of newest questions in the tag contains

  • combinatorics
  • elementary set theory
  • probability
  • elementary number theory
  • recurrence relation (their asymptotics)
  • graph theory
  • propositional calculus

So, the tag is overused. On the other hand, it conveys some information (i.e., the question is likely to be in one of the above areas), and some users probably would not be able to pick a more specific tag themselves: all they know about their question is that it was assigned in something called "discrete mathematics".

I think we should deal with this tag as with : replace tag wiki and excerpt with the suggestions of more specific tags to be used. (And then spend the rest of our lives retagging the questions where this tag is used anyway.)


Sadly, there are over 1100 questions with this and no other tag. If we go the burninate-and-blacklist route, all these will have to be retagged. While I agree the tag is problematic, it is not that problematic to justify another massive retagging campaign.

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  • $\begingroup$ It never cross my mind that removing the tag might be problematic. $\endgroup$ – Git Gud Oct 15 '14 at 15:58
  • $\begingroup$ That might happen if in the mind of the asker, "discrete mathematics" is exactly the right way to describe the subject of their question. I would let it be, as long as other, specific tags, are there too. $\endgroup$ – user147263 Oct 15 '14 at 16:19
  • $\begingroup$ Is there any way to make the tag deprecated without removing it? No users can use the tag in a new problem, but old problems with the tag remain intact. $\endgroup$ – user1111929 Oct 16 '14 at 14:05
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    $\begingroup$ @user1111929, if the tag is removed, then people in "Discrete Mathematics" courses who are struggling to understand what it is they're even trying to learn will be unable to provide any restriction on their domain of inquiry, or they may pick a tag that vaguely sounds possibly appropriate--in other words, they'll choose a tag randomly. $\endgroup$ – Mars Oct 17 '14 at 21:30
  • $\begingroup$ @Mars The tag (discrete-mathematics) just limits to half of mathematics. This is a terrible compartmentalization. Just as bad as (mathematics). $\endgroup$ – Git Gud Oct 18 '14 at 23:25
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    $\begingroup$ @GitGud In theory. In practice, the tag is used for the content of courses named "Discrete mathematics", which, even when taken together, do not cover half of mathematics. $\endgroup$ – user147263 Oct 18 '14 at 23:27
  • $\begingroup$ @GitGud: Which is why I still think it wasn't correct to lump all school related mathematics problems with non-school related mathematics problems. Just because both don't belong to Math Overflow does not mean they should be put together, tagged together, interleaved, and so on. But that's another topic... $\endgroup$ – user21820 Oct 21 '14 at 9:15
  • $\begingroup$ @CareBear I agree and I claim that it's still way, way too broad. Plus There are many logic questions being tagged (discrete-mathematics) only and I like logic, but I have no interest whatsoever in all of the other uses for the tag. My point being that (discrete-mathematics) as a lone tag is terrible and used in conjunction with other tags it's useless. I think you don't disagree with this, you just think that it's not worth the trouble of getting rid of this tag. To be honest I probably have no clue of how laborious such feat is, so I'm not insisting on getting rid of it. $\endgroup$ – Git Gud Oct 21 '14 at 9:49
  • $\begingroup$ @GitGud You could find out... Run this search (it bring up the questions with this tag as the only one), and retag a few. Repeat daily. $\endgroup$ – user147263 Oct 21 '14 at 16:17
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    $\begingroup$ I got 124 pages, 50 results per page. **ck that. But in such situations there should at least be a way to prevent news questions from using the tag. $\endgroup$ – Git Gud Oct 21 '14 at 16:20
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    $\begingroup$ @GitGud Sorry, I was unclear. The query brings up all the questions with the tag. But the ones with only this tag are placed at the beginning, so they occupy the first 23 pages and a half. I don't know if there is a way to block a tag without removing it. $\endgroup$ – user147263 Oct 21 '14 at 16:30
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    $\begingroup$ @GitGud: Having taught the typical (nominally) sophomore-level discrete math course almost every term for many years, I find the tag quite useful. For the most part it covers a fairly limited range of predictable topics: very basic set theory, including relations and functions; elementary combinatorics; simple induction and recursion arguments; rates of growth (big O notation); possibly the Chomsky hierarchy and a bit on regular sets and languages and finite state automata; possibly a little basic graph theory. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Oct 23 '14 at 2:50
  • $\begingroup$ @BrianM.Scott I'm interested in your opinion on this question. $\endgroup$ – David K Jan 31 '15 at 14:25
  • $\begingroup$ @GitGud Since you said that "there should at least be a way to prevent new questions from using the tag", I will point out this question: Can we please have a “deprecated tag” feature? (However, from the discussion on this meta post, it seems that at least some users would object to treating the (discrete-mathematics) tag in this way.) $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Jun 23 at 2:48
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinSleziak I bow in awe of your dedication to this site. Thank you for your service. $\endgroup$ – Git Gud Jul 7 at 18:17

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