I am still somewhat confused about the scope of this site. The help center says:

The community welcomes questions on teaching mathematics and the process of learning mathematics at all levels.

which would imply questions about learning strategies in mathematics to be on-topic. However, when one tries to ask a question, one is prompted:

Is your question about teaching mathematics?

which would suggest questions about learning strategies are off-topic. Given that the site's name is Mathematics Educators, I would have thought that the second option defines the scope of the site, but some previous meta discussions seem to disagree (see [1] [2] [3] [4]). Because of this confusion, I have been hesitant to migrate questions about learning strategies from Math.SE (where I am a moderator) to this site.


  1. Are questions about learning strategies on topic for this site?
  2. If the answer to the previous question is yes, can we fix the "Ask Question" page to read something like "Is your question about teaching or learning mathematics?" (Suggestions of other better phrasings are welcome.)


This question concerns how to take notes in class and also whether studying should involve memorizing as many theorems as possible. Any possible quality issues of the questions aside, it is not clear to me whether such questions are, in principle, on topic here.


2 Answers 2



The example of Willie Wong convinced me that the text in the box is not that good. I propose the formulation:

Is your question about teaching mathematics or the process of learning mathematics?

As said below it is a bit technical perhaps, but then it is not that bad (I hope) and it is inline with the formulation in the on-topic.

Please voice objectios or other proposals (if any). Absent those within some days I will try to get this changed (we need a community manager for this).

re 1. In principle, yes; in practice, it seems to me they are not always received well. (I do not have examples at hand though.)

re 2. I am against the precise fomulation you propose as just "for learning" can be misunderstood (this was discussed a lot). We could write "Is your question about teaching mathematics or the process of learning mathematics?" yet this feels a bit technical at that point. In fact, "teaching" includes "teaching oneself" so that (implictly) many cases that might come up in practice seem covered to me. This implicitness is in my mind by design. But if it causes confusion we might have to reconsider this.

For the motivating question of migrating from math.SE. It is hard to predict how the community will react to the questions (would you have some examples handy?) But we might try it.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I edited the question to include a most recent example. It is, admittedly, not the best written question. But I am only using it to illustrate the "topic" for the time being. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 14:37
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, it seems that the example that I included is precisely one case where I think "teaching oneself" doesn't quite cover it. It is more of a "how to study mathematics when taking a class" kind of question. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 14:39
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the example. I agree that in this case it is hard to say it is about teaching. The questions itself seems about alright to me. $\endgroup$
    – quid
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 23:20
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I like that formulation, and since you have addressed my other question previously, I will tick that little green mark. Feel free to tag the question status-completed after the change. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 7, 2014 at 10:27

Bumping this question. We have had a number of recent questions about 'how do I learn math', in one form or another; this is just one example. Such questions seem, without explicit narrowing, very difficult to provide good answers for when one knows virtually nothing about the student (which will always be the case in a text-based format like this). So I would vote "not without further details" to question 1. in the original post. I propose that

questions on teaching mathematics and the process of learning mathematics

be somehow amended to

questions on teaching mathematics and the process of helping learn mathematics

or something like this (I can't think of good wording right now), to indicate that it would be poor practice to suggest that this sort of forum can help well with how an individual learner can learn mathematics in general. It's just not suited to a SE site.

I recognize that MSE is not going to love questions about (general) self-learning either. So as an alternative, perhaps there could be a dedicated team of people who are going to help edit those questions into something that is targeted enough that it can be answered. As an example, instead of

How do I learn linear algebra on my own?

one could have

What strategies for learning linear algebra seem, in your experience, to have more promise for someone trying to learn linear algebra for the specific purpose of doing more advanced machine learning studies for a job?

But I fear otherwise we are going to have continued occasional questions we can't really answer that will lead to frustrated users and/or poor-quality answers.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I would say that "How do I learn linear algebra on my own?" is just a poor question! (Had I voting powers I would just vote to close it as "too broad". Which I now notice is exactly what happened to the question you cited.) One can equally ask bad questions like this for teaching: "How can I be a great calculus teacher?" So I don't think the possibility/existence of poorly thought-out questions should be a disqualifying factor for the topic of "learning". $\endgroup$ Commented May 3, 2019 at 14:22
  • $\begingroup$ I see your point, but I guess we might align in that (as far as I can tell) most self-learning questions on this site are not focused at all, certainly not enough to be answered very well. $\endgroup$
    – kcrisman
    Commented May 5, 2019 at 2:37

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