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I have edited some questions to add country tags. Someone has removed them from at least one question. Let us talk about what are the best practices around country tags on Matheducators.

Applicability

I think a country tag should be used when a question is about the educational system of a particular country. There might also be other cases, but I think this is the default one.

Examples:

  • Anything related to Common core (though there is already a common-core tag, which is more specific; I think it should usually be preferred if running out of tags for a question)
  • What is the school system like in Syria?
  • Why are the mathematics Pisa results much better here than there?
  • What kind of help can I find for my dyscalculic child in Japan? (Hypothetical question, as far as I know.)

Is it a good and useful tag?

  • It not a meta tag. The tag describes the content of the question. This is a desirable feature for a tag.
  • It is fairly easy to determine when the tag is relevant. Would the question make sense when applied to any other country and still have the same answers? If so, it should not have the country tag. This is good, in that it is unlikely for there to be constant arguments about when to apply such a tag.
  • Someone can be an expert in a country tag. Someone could be interested in following such a tag. These are both desirable properties.
  • There are country tags on academia.SE and, as far as I know, they do not cause issues. Furthermore, the reasons are similar: educational systems vary. This is weak evidence that the tags might also be okay here.
  • If ME had a higher volume, or when it will have, the tags would be useful for filtering out uninteresting questions or focusing on the interesting ones. I would, at least, be inclined to follow particular country tags (of my country of birth and country of residence and potential countries of residence), while the country tags with which I had but little connection or interest I might ignore.

Possible problems

I do not see any real problems, so these are weak. Please let me know of more serious problems and I will edit them in.

  • The questions might be obscure and there might be nobody to answer them. This is not really a problem with the tags, and furthermore, difficult questions are okay on SE. Maybe the expert will eventually come by. Having the tag will make it more likely for them to find the hard questions.
  • There would potentially be many such tags. I do not really see any problem here.
  • Someone might jealously edit in a country tags to lots of old questions, thereby flooding the front page with old questions. This is not really a problem with any particular tag; usually, it is best practice to only edit a couple questions per day. (Personally, I am not bothered by old questions re-emerging, even en masse, but I understand some are.)
  • The country tags might overwhelm other, more descriptive, tags. I do not think this is a problem at the moment, and when there are several applicable tags, one chooses those that are most relevant to the question. If the country tags are the most relevant, than they are, and if not, some others are.
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    $\begingroup$ For context, right now, of the 223 tags on main, three are related to geographical regions: usa (16 questions), finland (3), africa (3). $\endgroup$ – Joel Reyes Noche Apr 30 at 1:06
  • $\begingroup$ "The country tags might overwhelm other, more descriptive, tags. I do not think this is a problem at the moment, ...". It won't be long before the site incorporates far more tags, more relevant to math ed than a mere geographic reference. Why create tags in the first place, just because "there aren't currently all that many tags, so why not?" According to your logic, we could have a "money" tag because, "using money may help teach students about math!" We could have a "pizza" tag, because "using a pizza cut into slices to can help teach fractions!" (I'd rather not, in each case.) $\endgroup$ – Namaste May 10 at 15:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Namaste Educational systems vary from country to country and someone can be an expert on one or be interested in one. This already mentioned in the question. I doubt "pizza" is equally relevant, but "money" might be - or perhaps (personal) economics, more widely. $\endgroup$ – Tommi Brander May 10 at 17:52
  • $\begingroup$ Quite impractical, @TommiBrander, as there are currently 195 countries in the world, and only 223 tags on main. If you add one country as a new tag, it's only fair to add all 195 such tags. $\endgroup$ – Namaste May 10 at 20:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Namaste The tags are added when there are actual questions that have a use for them. If you are interested in a question for every country in the world, I would advise you to ask them a few at a time to not flood the main page, unless all of the questions are different. You are pointing at a hypothetical problem, not an actual one. See for example the following SE sites: law, academia, travel, politics, workplace, history and doubtless others. $\endgroup$ – Tommi Brander May 11 at 8:10
  • $\begingroup$ Literally every question originates within a specific country (or from a citizen from a specific country). Every question, therefore, is rooted in one's own orientation and understanding of math education, pedagogy, standardized testing, which one could argue makes "country of origin" just as relevant as "from my country of origin ______, I'd like to ask about comparable foo in __________ (fill in geographical area of concern). In the latter case, if you are going to be consistent, there ought to be two country tags used... $\endgroup$ – Namaste May 11 at 11:22
  • $\begingroup$ .... And in the former, every question, since rooted in each asker's own country's educational practices, and hence best understood by making country of origin very relevant to best understanding the question, would therefore need a country tag, as well. $\endgroup$ – Namaste May 11 at 11:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Namaste You clearly have an answer to the question, so please write it as such and let people vote and comment there. $\endgroup$ – Tommi Brander May 11 at 14:03
  • $\begingroup$ I already agree with the two top-voted answers. I'd like to see your challenges to them, or a response to my comments, other than your attempts to change the subject. $\endgroup$ – Namaste May 11 at 14:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Namaste I have voted on and commented the answers as I felt appropriate. You have new arguments, so feel free to write a new answer. But frankly, having you commenting here causes far too much exhaustion for me for participation to be worth the effort. If your goal was to drive me away from participating here, then you are successful. If that was not your goal, then please reflect on your method of interaction. $\endgroup$ – Tommi Brander May 11 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ @TommiBrander, I was merely trying to add an example or two indicating possible downsides,which to your proposal, as you requested in your post. My goal to help you and others think about downsides not considered in your list. I'm sorry you find me exhausting. That was no intent to do so. $\endgroup$ – Namaste May 12 at 23:08
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My opinion - and obviously this is just an opinion - is that MESE is not quite big enough yet to have a proliferation of country or other regional tags. I guess that means I disagree with the third 'disadvantage' bullet - at least until MESE is as big as academia.SE.

Having overarching tag categories for larger polities (or groups thereof) is acceptable. So europe or PISA countries or east asia or even usa (the latter only because so many of the questions are directly related, as you point out). Though one could easily remove usa in favor of various usa-specific tags (common-core, maybe), like there are lots of tags on stack overflow that are relevant to a particular language or framework that don't explicitly mention it in the tag (but do in the description of the tag).

I would prefer this approach. For instance, I feel like the finland and the syria questions were so very specific that if the questions were answered properly, there wouldn't be much more to say about those countries. Since it doesn't seem that either of them has been, the tag isn't helping. After all, the countries are in the title of the question, so searching isn't going to be hurt!

All that said, if MESE got more traction worldwide (as opposed to primarily in English-speaking countries and some other European ones, from what I can tell), this point would be moot and I'd be very glad to change my mind. And probably someday I'll ask a question about a resource I once saw describing very minutely how Japanese mathematics lesson plans work, and I'll have to be a hypocrite and create the japan tag. But for now it seems (just to me) we should be a little conservative on tag creation for this, though I don't feel strongly enough about it to do more than write this 'answer' that feels more like an extended comment - for which I apologize!

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    $\begingroup$ Sorry, but I am still not seeing a concrete downside to having the tags. Could you expand on that? What harm do they cause? $\endgroup$ – Tommi Brander Apr 30 at 7:03
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think very many things on MESE cause "harm" in the broader sense. I just personally find a surfeit of tags annoying - it is definitely possible to over-categorize and atomize. So perhaps the harm is, "people like me get mildly annoyed and find MESE more tedious". As I said, this isn't a great deal of harm and I won't object to any consensus choice here. $\endgroup$ – kcrisman Apr 30 at 13:01
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In practice, a tag that has only one question to it will be deleted after one year. One thus might say that it does not make much sense to create a tag unless there already is another question on the site or one suspects there will be another question within the next year.

One might use this as a rule of thumb.

Regarding harm, one way how small tags can be harmful is that it then can happen that somebody only uses a small tag. Worst case scenario the question ends up . Another risk with the proliferation of tags is that things become more confusing and inconsistent.

Thus, I'd say as soon as there are a handful of questions for a country or region, it can make sense to have such a tag, yet for the first question I'd hesitate to create it. Now, if some asker creates it, I might just leave it, maybe they intend to ask more questions down the road. But I don't think we should systematically create country tags as the first question on a country arises.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 - got it, understood. On a side note, there may be some single-post tags that have a second or more questions that should be tagged with them. A minor project if members have the time and desire. $\endgroup$ – JoeTaxpayer May 1 at 15:19
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    $\begingroup$ You can prevent single-tag deletions quite easily, though... by writing a tag wiki. :) $\endgroup$ – Catija May 3 at 21:17
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The question arose from an objection to having tags introduced that had only one question. We currently have 22 such tags. Tags can always use a bit of curation. Do any of these single-use tags have other questions they can be added to? Probably. And with a bit of effort as a group, we can help take that down (i.e. by adding these tags where appropriate, the single-use cases will be fewer).

I am of the opinion that removing such tags isn't helpful and more likely, harmful. A recent question regarding clocks was posted and tagged as such. An interested member could watch that tag to see any new questions containing that topic. What, if any, harm is caused by that tag having just one post so far? None, that I can think of.

I think a country tag should be used when a question is about the educational system of a particular country.

Of course it should. Really tough to identify harm, and easy to qualify future good that can come from using them.

The harm comes from waiting too long. If we adhere to some self imposed rule of needing X questions before creating the tag, it's extra effort, better applied to other aspects of the stack, and it's at risk of never happening.

For comparison, Math.SE has 179 single use tags of 1976 total, just over 9%, and Money.SE has 70/953 or 7%. In all three cases, I'd suggest a goal of using any effort towards attracting users by helping to make questions easier to find, and to attract re-visits, not 'cleaning up' for its own sake.

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    $\begingroup$ I see your point, but I do think that a lot of time single-use tags (on e.g. Stackoverflow) are actually hurting, because they often are made up by new users who are not aware that there is a more appropriate tag already in existence, and hence people watching those (existing) tags never see the questions. MESE is very small compared to Stackoverflow or MSE, and the country tags don't fall in this category, so I don't think that is directly relevant for this question - but could be for other tags. For instance, should the digital clock question have been clock or clocks? $\endgroup$ – kcrisman Apr 30 at 13:04
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    $\begingroup$ It seems that we have agreement on the use of country tags when appropriate. That’s good. I did not mean to imply that every last new tag would be appropriate. Some curating will always be required. I would hope that between the mods and active members, we can address the new tags as they are introduced. Regarding the clock, I honestly didn’t give any thought to whether the singular or plural is preferred. $\endgroup$ – JoeTaxpayer Apr 30 at 13:17

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