I created a new proposal at area 51 its called Math Review (http://area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/90443/math-review) and it is intended to be a Q&A site concerning troubles one find while reading text books and articles. Most of them are bad typos, but not always, for instance I recently found on chap 6 of a classic book a reference for a theorem that was proved in chap 4 but when one goes back there is no such a theorem.

Articles are also very rich in bad typos and this leads to trouble understanding what the author is saying. Of course, after a while, one might correct the typo but this is not always the case and this might take a long while.

With these ideas in mind I came to Math stack exchange.

But here is a site for questions on math, which is different. One is focused on the subject matter and not on the way something was written. I often tried to interpret the typo and if it persists I make it into a math question.

The point is, there should be a place where we could share those silent thoughts and corrections we make on a daily basis.

If this proposal turn out to be successful we might even use it as a place to discuss recent publications or pre-prints.

I am here to ask if the idea is pertinent or not, if it fits the scope of mathstackexchange or not.

If it reasonable to make such an endeavour and lastly, I would appreciate very much the discussion.


1 Answer 1


For the purpose of this post I would consider these two two types of problems with typos and errors in the mathematical books:

  • You are not sure whether it is an error in the book or whether you misunderstood something. You need help with correcting a possible error, filling in missing steps, explaining some details, etc.
  • You are pretty sure that it is an error. And you also know how to correct error. But you want to document the error somewhere for the benefit of future readers.

The problems of the first kind lead to questions which are valid (on topic) on math.SE. I think that we had plenty of questions asking for a clarification of some problems when reading a textbook or a paper. Some of such post in fact revealed an error or a typo in the original text. You can find a few examples in this question (and in answers and comments posted there).

For the second type, you do not need actually discuss the problem. You just need to include it in a list of errors in a given book. (And even a problem of the first type, if it has been successfully clarified after being posted on math.SE or elsewhere, becomes the problem of the second type - we still want to have it documented somewhere, ideally with a link to a more detailed explanation.)

I do not think that StackExchange software is ideal for such thing. Although there are exceptions, when it has been used in this way, see: Errata for Atiyah-Macdonald at MathOverflow.

One possibility is to write to the author - you should do this if they maintain errata for their work. For a more systematic website, containing lists of errata to several books, some kind of Wikipedia seems to be better suited. (Perhaps it could be even linked somehow with Google Books, arxiv, etc.) I have not actually tried any of them, but some of the other posts mention some attempts. Some kind of project of this type was mentioned in this discussion on MO, but it seems to be dead now. This answer mentions Math Book Notes Wiki created by Daniel McLaury (who is also a user on this website.) The description of this site says: "The purpose of this wiki is to collect clarifications and errata of math texts." This website does not seem to be very active at the moment, but unless you find a better site suitable for this purpose, it might be worth giving this one a try. (At least if the area51 proposal does not work out.)

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you Martin. I think this Math Book Notes Wiki is a wonderful place to make errata lists. I have created an account and I am going to contribute to it. At the same time, as you said, often one is unsure to state without further discussion, that such and such is a typo or even an error. I usually feel that some discussion is beneficial in those cases, for instance, see this question: math.stackexchange.com/questions/1351565/… This I asked and answered, but Only after discussing it with prof Ruth Williams. I was lucky. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 11:10
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    $\begingroup$ My point is, often the discussion is an important step in reassuring that one found indeed a typo, but not only this, it may be the case for discussing the arguments themselves so as to clarify the passage in the same vain that is intended in Math Book Notes Wiki. In these cases a discussion is even more beneficial. This is why I find the proposal important. Thank you for your answer. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 11:17

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