The tag seems to be used to indicate that the question arose from the OP's own study rather than being assigned as homework.

In the past we had a tag, and I imagine was used in contrast. However, I don't see why we really need the tag now. One of the things we ask questioners to do is provide context for their question. If the fact that the question came from self-study is relevant to the OP's confusion, then that should be explicitly mentioned in the post.

Some may argue that the tag can/should be used for questions about self-studying mathematics. In that case, I think the tag is more appropriate as its tag wiki suggests:

Questions about the process of learning mathematics, both inside and outside a formal environment, including learning strategies, recommendations for learning particular subjects, and studying habits.

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    $\begingroup$ We don't need no [education]... we don't need no [self-learning] tags... Yeah, okay, the first line was far more suitable. Can you please change the question for the [education] tag? :-) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Dec 30 '14 at 4:02
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    $\begingroup$ I find the information that the querent is working independently, without formal assistance, useful. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Dec 30 '14 at 7:00
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    $\begingroup$ @BrianM.Scott: I don't disagree with you, but not all useful information needs to be conveyed via tags. $\endgroup$ – Michael Albanese Dec 30 '14 at 8:06

The main problem with this tag is that the majority of 1643 questions in it are purely mathematical questions that have nothing to do with studying mathematics without formal instruction (quoting the tag excerpt). Just look at the newest questions to see what goes on there.

To make things worse, some of those questions have no other tag; so they are completely uncategorized by subject area. A sample of these:

  1. Continuity of a positive preserving operator between C(X) and C(Y)
  2. Help in Understanding the Formula for The Lattice Point Counting in Triangles with Rational Coordinates
  3. Expected value of function of negative binomial
  4. Conditional CDF
  5. Simplify the equation $\left | \frac{4-3m_3}{3+4m_3} \right |= \left | \frac{-3-4m_3}{4-3m_3} \right |$

I think the following should be done:

  1. retag the questions that have no other tag, either with subject area (if they are mathematical), or with
  2. delete
  3. In the future, put such questions under .

As long as we have both and tags, it makes sense for the latter to be used for questions where the focus is on a learner's own work. In fact, is already used for self-study questions, e.g., How to get university level Mathematics education on my own?

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    $\begingroup$ The fact that someone is studying without formal instruction is always potentially relevant to a responsible answerer. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Dec 30 '14 at 7:05
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    $\begingroup$ I strongly agree with @BrianM.Scott, it makes a HUGE difference if you have the opportunity to hear lectures live, meet other participients of a course and see the Prof, etc or if you are learning stuff all on your own. Self-studying is much more difficult and questions of people doing this might often need more detailled explanation as they have nobody to ask in the real world. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Dec 30 '14 at 7:14
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton: Counterpoint: detailed explanations belong here either way. It just doesn't seem like it, due to the amount of questions that are not (explicitly) soliciting explanation on a topic, but are merely assignments posted to MSE. $\endgroup$ – user14972 Dec 30 '14 at 7:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Brian: Someone is studying without formal instruction. It might not be the person asking the question, but that shouldn't matter if the aim of MSE includes something that resembles reference material for future users to be able to browse. $\endgroup$ – user14972 Dec 30 '14 at 7:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Hurkyl: I don’t accept the view that that is the sole aim, or that that aim is incompatible with the way that MSE actually does operate. If you’re not interested in interactive teaching, that’s fine, but it’s no reason to interfere with those of us who are (which explicitly includes some of the people asking questions). $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Dec 30 '14 at 8:01
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    $\begingroup$ @BrianM.Scott While that is true, this is not what tags are for. The OP can always add the information in the body of the question. See the death of meta-tags -- it's pretty much the same reasons that led to the demise of homework. $\endgroup$ – Najib Idrissi Dec 30 '14 at 8:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Brain: I think I may be missing what you are trying to say; the contrapositive of my point this time is that we shouldn't withhold detailed explanations just because the specific person who asks the question is studying with formal instruction (and therefore, apparently, does not need the detailed explanation). $\endgroup$ – user14972 Dec 30 '14 at 8:25
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    $\begingroup$ @Hurkyl: Your ‘and, apparently, therefore does not need the detailed explanation’ has nothing to do with my position. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Dec 30 '14 at 8:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Brian: ... although if "interactive teaching" is meant broadly enough to include "doing assignments posted to MSE", then I do see the conflict between the assertion that detailed explanations are appropriate and any compromise that would accept people posting assignments posted to MSE. But that's just one more reason why letting people post assignments to MSE makes the site worse. $\endgroup$ – user14972 Dec 30 '14 at 8:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Brian: Yes, I see that I was confused as I let Dilaton's response fill in the content missing from your comment. Since you seem to disagree with Dilaton's elaboration, I really have no information as to what you meant in the first place. $\endgroup$ – user14972 Dec 30 '14 at 8:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Hurkyl: Your argument is circular. It boils down to saying that hint answers are bad because they allow people to post questions that properly should receive hint answers, possibly followed by further interaction. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Dec 30 '14 at 8:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Brian: I see no circularity in the observation that feeding a behavior allows it to flourish and choke out other behaviors. But I think we are rather rather tangential at this point, since I still have no idea what your comment that started this whole thread was trying to say. $\endgroup$ – user14972 Dec 30 '14 at 8:52
  • $\begingroup$ I've suggested an implementation of this and a merge of (teaching) and (education) on the tag management thread. $\endgroup$ – 6005 Jan 3 '15 at 23:57
  • $\begingroup$ I came here to ask the same thing, i.e. what's the purpose of 'self-learning'. I'm glad to see there's agreement on its uselessness. The only remaining question is why it hasn't been deleted or at least blacklisted so no more question can be added to that tag while re-tagging goes on. $\endgroup$ – Fizz Feb 27 '15 at 8:23

I have been thinking that it might be useful to have a "hint and help" tag.

There are two kinds of questions put up on the site - "what is the answer to this mathematical question?" and "can you help me to answer this mathematical question?"

The tags we have don't fit the second kind well - because what is required is a hint or help rather than the most efficient answer. In a way the best response to such a question would be for OP to post an answer they've worked out for themselves.

The idea would be to have a convention of not giving full answers to such questions (and not closing them as duplicates) until [to be defined] OP has had a chance to answer for themselves. Once such an answer is posted it is then open season to post a more efficient answer, or a more general one, or to propose closing as a duplicate of another question because the mathematical content is the same.

The tag description could cover - please explain what you have done and why you are stuck, and the kind of help you think you need. Please also add a tag or tags to reflect the mathematical content of your question.

Adding such a tag to a question, with an appropriate comment about OP finding their own answer with help, would be a potential alternative to closing some of the more marginal PSQs.

Altogether I think some creative restructuring to provide tags with a closer fit to the second kind of question would be of general benefit.

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    $\begingroup$ Some older discussions about hint-only tag: See here and maybe also here. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Dec 30 '14 at 15:19
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinSleziak Thanks for that. I knew there had been some discussion, and that a hints tag really doesn't quite fit the model, because the model is based on answering the first kind of question. To my mind, a lot of the discussion here is about "what to do about" the second kind of question - implicit in what I wrote is being conscious of a lot of mathematically duplicate material tuned to individual requests for help. $\endgroup$ – Mark Bennet Dec 30 '14 at 15:33
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    $\begingroup$ Relevant: blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/08/the-death-of-meta-tags $\endgroup$ – Najib Idrissi Dec 30 '14 at 16:29
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    $\begingroup$ There is a tag proof-verification that seems somewhat similar in spirit. Are you under the impression that this works well? $\endgroup$ – quid Dec 30 '14 at 16:33
  • $\begingroup$ @NajibIdrissi Very helpful. The question is, then, what to do about the second kind of question, which seems to be welcome on this site (which is not for experts - there is another site for that) - and in particular how best to ensure that such questions are treated fairly. I suggested a "delayed duplicate" convention to deal with repetitive content, for example. $\endgroup$ – Mark Bennet Dec 30 '14 at 16:37
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    $\begingroup$ @quid Proof verification means you have already solved the problem, or think you have. I don't think that is quite the same - I have seen some poor examples of proof verification questions, so I don't think it works perfectly. The point of my suggestion was to provoke some thought about the second kind of question and how it is best handled. The "homework" tag was not much liked, but there were some questions which fitted it well. I guess any such tag is prone to abuse - my attempt at filtering is to create an expectation that OP writes the first full answer - which may not work. $\endgroup$ – Mark Bennet Dec 30 '14 at 16:43
  • $\begingroup$ What I meant by "similar in spirit" is that it also is for questions of "the second kind" and also should be somewhat normative regarding the type of answers that are acceptable. I agree that it does not work perfectly, to say the least, and I do not see the need for tags. The solution is in some sense quite simple: questioners should ask what they want to know, and answerers should answer what they are asked for. That's all, in theory. $\endgroup$ – quid Dec 30 '14 at 17:01
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    $\begingroup$ When somebody asks: "is this proof correct" a completly different proof is simply not a valid answer. When somebody asks for the initial step to approach a problem, a complete proof without much explanation is not a valid answer. When somebody ask for a published reference, giving the argument here is not a valid answer. When somebody asks for a solution, a "Hint:" is not a valid answer. And so on. We would "only" have to agree that questions are to be answered as asked. $\endgroup$ – quid Dec 30 '14 at 17:03
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    $\begingroup$ @quid Those are fair enough comments - but it doesn't always happen like that. And also "help me to think my way through" seems to be generating quite a lot of duplicate material which is helpful for the immediate question, but not for the site long-term. $\endgroup$ – Mark Bennet Dec 30 '14 at 17:07

We have three super-similar tags right now:

I think that should be merged with , where is the "parent"/residual tag.

Then, the question becomes "do we think and should be merged?" I argue no--we can keep education to be relating to formal education, while self-learning relates to informal education.

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    $\begingroup$ You did not include (teaching), which is also in this group. $\endgroup$ – user147263 Dec 30 '14 at 6:15
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    $\begingroup$ Teaching is now within the domain of Mathematics Eductators.SE $\endgroup$ – skillpatrol Mar 19 '15 at 21:22

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