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Several years ago when this site was launched there were quite a few discussions about what is or should be the scope of the site, see for example Scope of the site: educaTION versus educaTOR

Since quite some time has passed, it might be worthwhile to revisit the subject to see if there is need for clarification.

Not to make this discussion overly broad let us focus this discussion on the intended audience.

It seems clear that we want to cater to persons actively involved in teaching of mathematics1. But who else:

  • nobody?
  • students?
  • parents (and equivalent) of children in school?
  • persons generally interested in the subject?

This post might be a bit vague, but I hope it can still serve some purpose.


  1. What I meant to convey is that persons that are, or were, involved with mathematics education in a professional capacity, or something resembling this, in my mind are clearly part of the target audience. Joel's answer names some groups in that category that are not, or at not necessarily, actually teaching mathematics.
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    $\begingroup$ I guess the main unclear point is about students who don't have a teacher, and are curious how a professional educator would help them structure their attempts to learn some mathematics. So, for example, see the self-learning tag. matheducators.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/self-learning It's possible that every question in this tag should be off-topic? I'd be curious to know if anyone thinks all these questions should be on-topic, or all off-topic, or if there is a nice place to draw a dividing line. $\endgroup$ – Chris Cunningham Jul 22 '19 at 23:06
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For me, "persons actively involved in the teaching of mathematics" include those who are not formally employed as teachers. So I would include tutors as well as mathematics popularizers (such as those who make blogs or videos about mathematics).

I would also consider as part of the intended audience the following people (even if they are not teachers):

  1. people who have a say on mathematics education policy (such as administrators).
  2. people who are studying how to teach mathematics (such as mathematics education researchers and students who are studying to be mathematics teachers).
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    $\begingroup$ @Namaste, I consider students asking about mathematics (and not about mathematics education) to be not part of the intended audience. $\endgroup$ – Joel Reyes Noche Jul 22 '19 at 22:42
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    $\begingroup$ Would you say any of these posts should be on-topic? Or should they all be migrated/closed? matheducators.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/self-learning $\endgroup$ – Chris Cunningham Jul 22 '19 at 23:07
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    $\begingroup$ @ChrisCunningham, without looking at the actual questions, I would say that posts about the asker asking for help learning a specific topic (e.g., "I'm studying calculus on my own and I want to understand what a limit is. Please explain it to me.") would be off-topic here; posts about how a topic is learned without external help (e.g., "How does one learn how to write proofs correctly without feedback from a teacher?") would be on-topic here. $\endgroup$ – Joel Reyes Noche Jul 23 '19 at 1:12
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    $\begingroup$ It sounds like you would say the questions "How do I stay interested in abstract math as opposed to applied math?" and "How do I study for math competitions?" would be on-topic (more like "how to learn"). I'm also worried about drawing the line between questions that read "Educators: How do you explain topic X?" for when the questioner is really a student trying to learn X, vs. when the questioner is an educator preparing to teach X. It seems like we all want to avoid the question "Educators: Please teach me X." $\endgroup$ – Chris Cunningham Jul 23 '19 at 1:32
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I think rather than try to define who belongs on the site, we should instead clarify what questions belong on the site.

IMHO, that is:

  • questions about teaching (tutoring, lecturing) mathematics
  • questions about learning (self-teaching) mathematics
  • questions about specific mathematics textbooks and other teaching/learning resources (but not open-ended shopping questions such as "what's the best book for X?")
  • questions about mathematics education or mathematics education policy
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    $\begingroup$ Hi shoover! Do you agree that we should not accept mathematical questions of the form "I am a student trying to learn <topic X>. How would you best explain it?" $\endgroup$ – Chris Cunningham Jul 25 '19 at 21:48
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with this to some extent. Note though that I did not ask who belongs on the site but instead to whom the site should cater. In my minds that's maybe a subtle yet important difference. // I think the second bullet "questions about learning mathematics" needs some qualification. Too many thing could fit there. I believe that we might well be on the same page what is intended, but the formulation leaves a lot of ambiguity. $\endgroup$ – quid Jul 25 '19 at 22:40
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    $\begingroup$ @ChrisCunningham, yes, questions that boil down to "please teach me X" are off-topic. But questions that really are about how to teach something would be on-topic. e.g. "What is the most effective way to teach six-year-olds about place value?" is on-topic; "I am a twelve-year-old trying to learn about polynomials. How would you explain them to me?" is not. $\endgroup$ – shoover Jul 26 '19 at 1:47
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    $\begingroup$ @quid: Re-reading my answer, I think the second bullet point is not very clear. By this I mean not that any question asked by a learner is on-topic, but only those that related to the teaching of topic X, not to topic X itself. I'm thinking of the questions about the relative merits of textbooks X and Y. $\endgroup$ – shoover Jul 26 '19 at 1:49
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I think it is important to explicitly include people who are teaching themselves, when their question would not fit the math.se site. The internet has opened up so much possibility for people to learn all sorts of things on their own. A site full of math educators can be a goldmine for someone who is working through books and websites, but has some questions that aren't directly about the math topics they are learning and are about how to learn math.

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    $\begingroup$ Do we know which of these questions do and do not fit the math.se site? And further, should we try to avoid duplication, or welcome it? $\endgroup$ – Chris Cunningham Jul 25 '19 at 21:41
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    $\begingroup$ @ChrisCunningham "not fit" is basically impossible to answer, since it depends so much who you ask. If I'd say something, chances are some fellow math.se user would show up and say: "That's just your opinion." Instead I'd propose "run a considerable risk of being put on hold." $\endgroup$ – quid Jul 25 '19 at 22:31

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