1. It would provides a space for beginners to ask questions that may be "stupid" without spamming the serious forum. (Thus only those feeling particularly generous in a given moment would have to be subjected to such questions, and not the generally community.) It took me a series of very poor questions to figure out that I'm not quite ready to ask questions on this forum.

  2. It would provide a space to ask general questions, such as "Can you recommend a good Linear Algebra Primer?" (This may be a moot point if the best answer is always "Khan Academy", but it took me a while to figure out that Linear Algebra was the relevant subject in the first place. Thus there may be value to a forum where people can ask "What type of mathematics should I be studying to for a problem such as _________?")

  3. It could provide a space where beginners could then take what they've learned and assist other beginners with similar questions, and thus contribute in a meaningful way, as they're climbing the ladder of knowledge. (A referent might be the "Ask Patents" forum where general questions are relevant and thus allowed. I'm not a patent attorney, but I've spent a good deal of time engaging with them, and it's provided me with a solid basic knowledge of patent law, particularly as it relates to my field. Thus, while I'm still just a layperson, I can meaningfully assist those with less experience by providing perspective, and linking to relevant cases and journal articles that are related to their questions.)

Part of what I'm struggling with is that there are certain maths I need to learn in order to solve a specific set of problems, but I don't have the luxury or wherewithal pursue a university degree at this time. I suspect there may be others with similar circumstances, but this is merely speculation.

I was recently kindly assisted with an answer to this general question, but I can't shake the feeling that the main forum is really not an appropriate place for it.

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    $\begingroup$ meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/624/… $\endgroup$ – user296602 Aug 27 '16 at 1:02
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    $\begingroup$ Somewhat related question: Would splitting the site into more elementary and more advanced questions help? $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Aug 27 '16 at 4:15
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps chat could help you with some of the problems in your points 1 and 2? There is main chatroom which is pretty active and has large user base. There are also specialized chat rooms, for example linear and abstract algebra. Most of them are not very active at the moment, but hopefully if more users start using them, they will become more useful. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Aug 27 '16 at 4:18
  • $\begingroup$ I am not sure why this meta question is so poorly received. Some remarks: "Can you recommend a good Linear Algebra Primer?" would be closed not because it is too beginner-ish a question, but because it is not answerable like this. You would need to describe your needs and then ask. If done well that would be on-topic here. On your first point, it might not be apparent at a glance but there are many questions of persons with hardly any idea what they are asking about. The post may look sophisticated, but only because most of it is copied from a textbook or alike. $\endgroup$ – quid Aug 27 '16 at 11:40
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    $\begingroup$ I think you overestimate the median level of a question on this site. A reason why you could have a harder time is that your have atypical questions and background, and questions not falling into the usual pattern are sometimes not received that well (unfortunately). I think it will be important that you motivate your questions, describing something like you said here. It does not have to be long, just "I am trying to formalize a problem that I need in a game I am developing" or something like that. $\endgroup$ – quid Aug 27 '16 at 11:47
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your comments. There are definitely some good strategies here. (Hopefully even this question, regardless of downvotes, can serve a guide of sorts, as the previous, related question "Is this website really for everyone?" didn't come up on search for this topic.) $\endgroup$ – DukeZhou Aug 28 '16 at 20:40

Thanks for posting a thoughtful question on meta, suggesting an idea for improvements. Down-voting on meta does often indicate a disagreement with suggestions, rather than a complaint about the quality or suitability of the post. (Down-votes here do not affect reputations.)

I disagree with this as a suggestion (but did not down-vote, as I'm going to explain my thoughts). Generally I think in terms of trying to automate the process of helping each other, rather than subdividing the Community by a criterion (beginner vs. experienced) that may seem intuitive but is hard to quantify.

  1. There is a broad range of experience among Community Users, so that some topics may be considered too advanced or too elementary by a particular member. But having a wide audience is advantageous to getting prompt responses at a level suitable to the person asking, if only they convey what their current understanding is. Often an answer can best be explained by someone only slightly ahead of you on the learning curve, someone that can appreciate the limited background information available and tailor an Answer to using only those minimal facts necessary.

  2. StackExchange sites as a whole are not set up to make recommendations in any broad aspect. Rather the ideal is curating excellent content in a Question and Answer format, e.g. for Math.SE questions/problems that can be explained or solved in fairly concise, more or less definitive ways. Recommendations tend to be much in-the-eye-of-the-beholder opinions, and while some subjective aspects are valuable (see Cartaino's classic StackOverflow blog post), these tend to be more ephemeral than the reasoned mathematical arguments that should be our stock-in-trade.

  3. I like the "beginners helping beginners" idea, but as I've already hinted, dividing the pool of Users someplace along the continuum of experience would interfere with this at the juncture the cut is drawn. Indeed there is no practical way to divine a priori what category new (or old!) Users would best fall into. Math.SE should be all about helping Users at any level of study to learn mathematics. While I acknowledge this does not happen all the time in the best way possible, we do have a strong commitment as a group to this enterprise. We are all beginners at learning new things (which math provides inexhaustibly).

My suggestion is, rather than trying to partition the Community, to have some FAQ for beginners about Search Strategy. The Math.SE corpus is somewhat mature now, after five to six years of growth, and often the Answers to beginning questions are somewhere "hidden" in this mass of information.

As you say, knowing a term like Linear Algebra exists can change your perspective on how to progress. The Ask a Question dialog attempts to give feedback on whether a similar Question has already been asked. The software behind this of necessity works from limited information about what the query concerns, mainly the wording of the title proposed.

I think the meta topic, How to ask a good question, and the Help topic, How to Ask, could be revised or further tailored to Math.SE to give new Users some tips about searching the site (a sometimes frustrating experience with the built-in search facilty even for experienced Users). The Tour covers a number of helpful points.

Another clue for beginning Questions comes when one is asked to supply a "tag". Seeing the available tags that relate to a topic should immediately suggest looking through previously asked Questions with those tags.

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  • $\begingroup$ FAQs for beginners would certainly be helpful. Thanks for commenting and providing insight into the problem and strategies to address it! $\endgroup$ – DukeZhou Aug 28 '16 at 20:39

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