I am not a teacher but a parent of children who learn math at school (13 and 15 yo in France). I also have a PhD in physics, so I am particularly interested myself by what they learn.

Some of their exercices are a bit surprising to me, usually because of the assumptions made in the exercise. I am therefore curious about whether

  • the exercise is a bad one
  • or that this specific simplification make sense for something further on.

My question for Meta is: are such questions in or out of scope for Math Educators?

Specifically I would like to bring to the table a concrete exercise and the way it is expected to be solved. In addition to that I would like to mention why some assumptions are at least questionable from my limited understanding of math (generally, and particularly in the teaching continuum across grades).

The answer I would hope to get is either "this is correct, you do not understand", or "this simplification is done on purpose because ..." (or "yes, this exercise is bad - move along").

I completely understand the need to simplify things, my whole physics education was based on "you were told that [something], well as you will see this is not true. But it helped you to understand [something else]". This is fantastic.

In the case of these math exercices I am missing the "it helped you to understand [something else]" part.

  • $\begingroup$ It doesn't seem like the most interesting question to ask about a given specific exercise, versus some bigger issue. Also, like many "questions", it sounds like a complaint and a request for sympathy and agreement, more than a genuine search for information. Really more of a forum post. Than again, I am reasonably tolerant of forum style posts rather than the Q&A format. Can get good discussions...those can reveal things in a different way than the Q&A style does. Sometimes a discussion salon is more helpful for things that are not cut and dried. $\endgroup$
    – guest
    Jun 26, 2020 at 21:34
  • $\begingroup$ @guest Also, like many "questions", it sounds like a complaint and a request for sympathy and agreement, more than a genuine search for information. Not sure how to say it, but I am a grown up and honestly do not give a fuck about sympathy and agreement. It may be that today everyone feels offended by everything but I genuinely want to understand how math is taught today. This also helps to explain math to my kids the way they are taught at school. But thank you for your tolerance, per your comment. $\endgroup$
    – WoJ
    Jun 26, 2020 at 22:02

2 Answers 2


There is a spectrum of possible tones for this kind of post, from

My kid's teachers are incompetent and always giving useless exercises that I can't imagine any purpose for. Here is an example. Am I right?


My kid's teachers are competent and must have intended something by this exercise but I can't figure out what it is. Here is an example. Can you help?

I would say the closer you are to the second option, the better. It seems like you know this, so your question seems on-topic to me as well.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I used to teach (at the university) so this is definitely the second one :) On the serious side - this is not about teachers but rather about the choice of examples for pupils and the simplifications / approximations which are being used. I honestly do not realize whether this is intended because [something] or just inappropriate examples. The answer in my actual questions are interesting to show why this is done. $\endgroup$
    – WoJ
    Apr 25, 2020 at 9:38

It seems to me that the question you plan to ask is on topic in Mathematics Educators Stack Exchange.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ By the way, in my experience, users rarely pass by Mathematics Educators Meta. Do not be surprised if your post here doesn't get much attention. $\endgroup$
    – JRN
    Apr 24, 2020 at 14:20

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