# Who is MESE for, exactly?

This is not a rhetorical question, and it also doesn't have any preconceived answer. It is instead closely related to the question of why there are so few questions on what otherwise seems to be a healthy beta site. Surely there are many relevant questions, as was pointed out elsewhere, so the question is how (or whether) they belong here or whatever.

It seems like most questions on MESE are aimed at the tertiary US audience. Nonetheless, I know few if any US college instructors who even know about this site. Okay, but how many high school, or elementary school, or ... users are there?

So on the one hand it seems to be largely post-secondary aimed (de facto, not de jure) but on the other hand seems to be not attracting that many of that group, and even less of other age ranges. Would it be useful to (intentionally) restrict the audience somewhat, in the hopes of making it seem more targeted and hence more useful? Or does there need to be a bunch of people attending the NCTM meeting to let them know that there is this community who would be very interested in discussions about all levels? (There is the side issue that of course many education questions are somewhat open to opinion, but let's ignore that for now.)

I'm not particularly active here, but knowing how many people storm MSE and how interested the (US) post-secondary community is in discussing stuff, I figure there are plenty of people up for a more focused site; at the same time, I really like the idea of a one-stop-shop for math ed since so many issues really are vertical (raise your hand if you're a college educator who has never seen someone who thinks $\sqrt{1+1}=1+1=2$ is true) and worth discussing across levels as well as among them. But it would be a shame for the site to sort of languish because there are lots of answers but few questions, so I just wonder about whether this is a contributing factor.

• (And if I'm wrong about not as many secondary/primary people using this site, I'm happy to be wrong; as I say, I'm not so active, so my sample size for these observations is relatively low.) – kcrisman Sep 11 '15 at 15:55
• Thanks for the interesting question. I will definitely get back to this soonish in more detail. – quid Sep 12 '15 at 18:47
• A literal answer for how many users there are: area51 says there are 303 "avid users" and 3,385 "total users". Checking users shows that by page 18 of the users, sorted by reputation, there are users who haven't earned rep on the site. 17 pages of 36 users each is 612 users. Similarly, we can find the 303rd user on p. 9, since 8x36 + 15 = 303. Rep around there is ~200. – Benjamin Dickman Sep 20 '15 at 15:27
• (You can find more breakdowns around users, say, over the past year by checking the user reputation league for MESE.) – Benjamin Dickman Sep 20 '15 at 15:29
• One more comment, for now: I stand by my recommendation 1 in an earlier meta.MESE post here although an SO moderator believed it to be infeasible. With regard to your question about community: I think it would be great to have NCTM folks (and more K12 teachers). A nontrivial number are on Twitter (google: MTBoS) but I don't tweet and am generally unfamiliar with this crowd! – Benjamin Dickman Sep 20 '15 at 15:41
• I hadn't seen that post of yours, glad that I wasn't the only one asking this. – kcrisman Sep 21 '15 at 8:15
• Most active users here on MESE are also active on other SE sites. Perhaps K12 teachers are underrepresented on StackExchange to begin with? – Dag Oskar Madsen Sep 21 '15 at 21:03
• Almost certainly so - presumably any group other than people who do a lot of coding are underrepresented on SE, given its origins. So maybe part of this is asking how to change that. – kcrisman Sep 22 '15 at 7:43
• While we are on the subject of "Who is MESE for?" -- when this group began I was under the impression that it was for both practitioners of math education (i.e. anybody who teaches math) and also for researchers in math education (who usually call themselves "Math Educators", I suppose because "Math Educationologists" sounds dumb.) Those folks would be asking questions like "What is a good scholarly study of phenomenon _________ at the secondary level?". In the early days of this site there were a few good questions like that; they seem to have all but disappeared. – mweiss Sep 22 '15 at 12:50

The audience of the site is described in the help-center like this:

Mathematics Educators Stack Exchange (MESE) is a question and answer site for those involved in the field of teaching mathematics.

The community welcomes questions on teaching mathematics and the process of learning mathematics at all levels. From questions about helping children to appreciate numbers to suggestions on the advisement of doctoral students conducting original research, a broad spectrum of questions about mathematics education is admissible.

In particular, both questions on research in mathematics education and questions seeking hands-on advice are welcome.

As I wrote this, it is basically what I think should be the target audience of the site. This is quite broad, this is true, but I am quite skeptical that narrowing it down will get us more users.

Especially, I do not quite share the analysis of the post in some aspects, such as:

Surely there are many relevant questions, as was pointed out elsewhere, so the question is how (or whether) they belong here or whatever.

The link goes to a list of about 1500 questions tagged "education" on the Mathematics site. This could seem like a lot, but:

• this is less than 0.3% of all questions there.
• a considerable fraction of them seem not like "good" questions or at least not really on-topic here.
• it is not much more than the number of questions we have.

Thus, looked at it differently over a period of about five years a quite large site did not attract substantially more questions than we did over less than two years. Thus, it is not that bad either.

Of course, I would be happy if we had some more questions. But, in my mind it is not the most important thing. What is key is the quality of the questions we have and even more the quality of the answers they receive then. I think the site does a good job at this.

• Thanks, though I'll point out I don't have any preconceived notions on this. May I take your post as suggesting there should be some attempts at reaching audiences that are in the help-center description, but do not appear to be adequately represented? – kcrisman Oct 19 '15 at 2:32
• You are welcome and sorry that it took me a while to reply. Yes, whoever has some idea how to attract new (groups of) users is most welcome to go ahead. – quid Oct 19 '15 at 22:55

I'm posting this on behalf of Gerhard Paseman (See http://chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/24262880#24262880 for context.)

I suggest populating the forum with questions that others would like to ask, but haven't. Let me list a few (which may have been asked before, in which case there should be links and updates to the earlier versions).

1. What are good resources for Mathematics Educators in area X? Here X can range over audience types, common subjects taught, major educational schools (as in IBL, directed format, Montessori; I am not a professional educator, so forgive my ignorance in this regard). I recommend X have at most twenty types, and that the answers include non-online formats, e.g. professional societies and interest groups.

2. I am tutoring a student in subject X, and want to try method Y, which I am new to using. What are the upsides/pitfalls to method Y, and is there a reason to prefer method Z to Y in teaching subject X?

3. I am a student in class X, and I just don't get what the instructor is trying to do. He says he is using method A, but I don't see why. Is there something I can do to avoid or benefit from method A? Is it appropriate/a bad idea to start a dialogue with him on teaching methods/learning styles?

4. I am responsible for setting up an educational program in a rural area, and have limited resources available. I am looking at attempting to educate Y many people where I would normally expect to teach Y/3 many with the resources I am given. The subject is pre-algebra. Is there something I can do to leverage what I am given and get the job done? Fortunately, we are near a paper mill: the one thing I can get donated is sufficiently many hardcopies of whatever assignments are chosen, but I need to place the order two weeks before the program starts; I can't place additional orders during the program duration.

5. I am preparing for a back-to-school night, to show parents of my students the basic approaches we are using in our third grade (U.S.) class. Last year did not go so well in the area of mathematics: it seemed the parents had problems understanding what was being given to their children to do, and the children did not ask any questions. How can I change this, so that the parents can be more involved in the mathematics education of their students, without bringing the parents to class beyond this back-to-school night?

I am using my imagination here. I think all of these questions are appropriate, but I depend on the professionals here to reframe them so that they will be appropriate and useful for the forum. I can provide more ideas if needed, but what should happen is that the active members themselves should ask the questions others would like answered. (I particularly like the idea of students asking MESE questions; they may hold the key on how to improve mathematics education.)

Gerhard "MESE Is For Everyone, Actually" Paseman, 2015.09.21

• Thank you, Joel. It is interesting that an unregistered account can comment but not post in meta.MESE . Gerhard "Not Exactly Being Low Profile" Paseman, 2015.09.23 – Gerhard Paseman Sep 24 '15 at 3:03

I have just joined this board and are still are a bit confused about what is acceptable here.

I have only one question where I clearly state that I am a Middle School Maths teacher (for the record, I am not in the US), about a topic that is in the national curriculum here, and at the school I teach at - I have to teach that topic - so far, the question is going okay 7 upvotes and 1 downvote.

However, in the comments, I am constantly being reminded that some 'professional mathematicians' have never heard of the topic that I am referring to - and the concepts behind the topic are being actively discussed in comments, and worse - the rationale of teaching the topic (I have to) - this is not what I was asking.

I have had 2 very pertinent and relevant answers (one of which did the trick, so was accepted).

I do have some other questions, but these are solely aimed at Middle School mathematics - But my confusion is, is this site aimed at college based professional mathematicians or also for the K12 teachers, especially us who are given a set curriculum to teach?

• I rest my case. I agree that the question in question is 100% acceptable, and that unfortunately the comments were not answering the question. Which is, also unfortunately, probably not the last time that will happen. – kcrisman Nov 10 '15 at 20:18
• Question on K12 subjects are definitely welcome. You should not get discouraged by the comments. Usually they are motivated by an honest desire to understand the issue better. Some users (including me at times) have a quite direct style in doing this, and this then might come over as insistent critique. In the specific case I feel an unknown word caused some confusion and possibly misconception. There might also be a learning process there that math-terminology is not unique and there are specifies to K12 where familiarity with "higher level math" does not help that much. – quid Nov 10 '15 at 20:22
• Also, there needs to be an understanding that many K12 teachers have no choice in what they teach, but have considerable scope in how they teach. – user5799 Nov 10 '15 at 20:23
• Beyond that it is a general concern how to handle situations where some user disagrees with the premise of a question. You could see the question '"Why not" as an answer to "How to"' which is related to not completely applicable. There is also a very general issue that comment discussion can go over board a bit at times. If you feel that comments are getting off-topic you can flag for a moderator. Under the post chose "flag" select "other" and explain the concern. – quid Nov 10 '15 at 20:28
• If you think some individual comment should be removed as it does not help the debate you can flag this comment as "not constructive" for example (move the cursor next to the comment at the left to get the "flag" icon). Note though that for more general issue it can be better to flag the post as thus gives more options to the moderator. – quid Nov 10 '15 at 20:30
• Hmmm I would be reluctant to presume to flag any comment. – user5799 Nov 10 '15 at 20:35
• Yes, I can understand that. But I think you handled the situation well anyway. I am looking forward to your other questions. – quid Nov 10 '15 at 23:17