What are the differences between MathOverflow.net and Math.stackexchange.com?

Why two communities for Mathematics? Wasn't one enough?


3 Answers 3


The two sites are meant for very different audiences, and have very different types of questions.

From the MathOverflow faq:

MathOverflow's primary goal is for users to ask and answer research level math questions, the sorts of questions you come across when you're writing or reading articles or graduate level books.

From the Area51 page for math.stackexchange:

Q&A site for people studying math at any level & professionals in related fields

Why separate the two? The community at MathOverflow is not interested in the typical question here. It is too elementary, and they don't want to be flooded with people asking basic math questions. Conversely, most MathOverflow questions would not be well suited to the audience here. Many may not even be comprehensible! The concentration of professional mathematicians is too low (or will be after the site goes public, anyways), and the questions are not interesting to most people without graduate-level coursework in math.
Of course, there are plenty of exceptions to the above. Especially in the closed beta, there will be substantial overlap between the two sites, in terms of users, anyway. The distinction will probably be a lot more clear once the site goes public.

  • 49
    $\begingroup$ Well, some people don't seem to understand that and they are down-voting or making derogatory comments to questions/answers that are simple. $\endgroup$
    – Vivi
    Commented Jul 21, 2010 at 5:13
  • 15
    $\begingroup$ Yeh, it definitely is not clear on their site what their focus is if you are a new user. I'm sure it's a unpleasant trial by fire. It sounds like there is a need for something analgous to the relation ship between stackoverflow and serverfault, where questions can be migrated by mods appropriatelyif they don't fall within the criteria of research mathematics. $\endgroup$
    – AaronLS
    Commented Nov 10, 2010 at 3:03
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    $\begingroup$ mathoverflow.com doesn't seem to be part of the stackexchange umbrella... if you log in there, the profile page is different, and there's no inbox functionality on the top left corner... seems fishy. $\endgroup$
    – gcb
    Commented Dec 19, 2011 at 19:08
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    $\begingroup$ That's all good and fine, but I get the feeling MathOverflow is not a subsidiary of the StackExchange network (even though its FAQ says so). When I used my OpenID to log on, it didn't connect to any of my StackExchange accounts, including StackOverflow or math.stackexchange. $\endgroup$
    – chharvey
    Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 4:17
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    $\begingroup$ @TestSubject528491: That is because MathOverflow is a Stack Exchange 1.0 site, while the connected sites like this one are SE 2.0 sites. (See here.) It is possible that one day MO will join 2.0. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 1:43
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ If you read the FAQ on MO you find what it is about. From time to time there are proposals to make the purpose MORE obvious to a new-comer, but those proposals have so far always failed. $\endgroup$
    – GEdgar
    Commented Nov 26, 2012 at 15:00
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    $\begingroup$ @gcb: MathOverflow seems to be integrated with the StackExchange network now... if you visit some randomly picked user's profile here you can see their account on MO. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 24, 2014 at 4:17
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    $\begingroup$ I feel like this should be done for StackOverflow too... $\endgroup$
    – Darkhogg
    Commented Mar 17, 2014 at 0:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Darkhogg SO is too broad for any one professional-level version. Theoretical CS already exists as a separate site, for example. $\endgroup$
    – OJFord
    Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 23:12
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    $\begingroup$ It would be good if MathOverflow did more to distinguish itself from math.stackexchange. At this point when you visit the MathOverflow there is no easily accessible description to explain the difference. $\endgroup$
    – ThomasW
    Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 2:09
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    $\begingroup$ I think at least one of the two needs a clearer name. There's no way to tell by the names what the difference in purpose is. If anything, I would have thought their purposes were reversed by just looking at the names. $\endgroup$
    – xdhmoore
    Commented May 1, 2016 at 1:51
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Darkhogg Actually now, there are Theoretical Computer Science, Computer Science, Computational Science, Stack Overflow, SuperUser, CodeReview and Computer Graphics... $\endgroup$
    – TGar
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 22:50
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    $\begingroup$ I can't even understand 90% of the questions here tbh. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 16:08
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    $\begingroup$ So it is sort of like ELU vs ELL? $\endgroup$
    – Fiksdal
    Commented Sep 16, 2017 at 16:08
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    $\begingroup$ I am wondering if one could be done for school and engineering related problems, and then the other could be for hobbies and independent research. I think that would be more clear cut. $\endgroup$
    – user477818
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 3:29

MathOverflow is for research level math questions. Math.stackexchange.com is not restricted to any particular level of difficulty (though one expects that it won't get much in the way of research level questions since those are at MO). There was a lot of feeling on SO and MO that it'd be good if there was a site for more elementary math questions.


This site will provide a place for people like myself to become engaged with a broader mathematical community. The questions and contributors at MathOverflow are too advanced for me to answer or contribute useful comments toward.

If there are other people like me, then this site will provide a forum for us to work through problems together, among mathematicians closer to our level.

  • 18
    $\begingroup$ I don't think I will ever be able to provide answers, but I have so many questions to ask (well, not right now, but there are always questions coming and going). The problem is that my questions are too basic for MO, so now I have a place where I can ask them! $\endgroup$
    – Vivi
    Commented Jul 21, 2010 at 5:19

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