Recently, I asked a question on MSE about teaching engineers mathematical thinking skills. Would this question be suitable for MO, where it might reach more professionals involved in teaching mathematics to engineers?

I fully recognize that the question might be deemed too subjective for MO. Certainly, it is not directly about research level mathematics.

Please also let me know should you feel that the question is unsuitable now, but could be made appropriate with some rewriting, be it minor or extensive.

Edit: I have decided not to post the question on MO at this stage (if at all). However, if you would like to provide an answer then please go to the MSE link above or leave a "comment" at The Mathematics Teaching Community where I have just posted a submission. I suspect that the latter community might be more appropriate than MO for my question. Thank you to everyone who provided input on Meta whether my question was suitable.

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    $\begingroup$ Vote here if you want to express: yes, this is on-topic. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jan 13 '14 at 15:19
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    $\begingroup$ Vote here if you want to express: no, this is off-topic. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jan 13 '14 at 15:20
  • $\begingroup$ How long should I wait before the voting for on or off-topic is considered concluded? At the time of writing this comment, the scores are equal. That said, there are enough votes for off-topic that my proposed question might very well be closed, were I to post it. Please note that I wish to abide by the norms of the MO community. $\endgroup$ – J W Jan 13 '14 at 20:44
  • $\begingroup$ Basically I think it could make sense to wait until somebody actually gives an answer here. I merely added the voting comments, since recently there was some discussion something like this should be done to avoid many downvotes on the question itself. We do not have many precedents regarding this procedure. IMO the question is borderline. It is hard to predict what would happen when you post it. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jan 13 '14 at 20:51
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    $\begingroup$ Whats the worst that will happen if you post it. Closed question ? Big deal. $\endgroup$ – Piyush Grover Jan 13 '14 at 21:17
  • $\begingroup$ @quid: Thanks for the explanation. I'll certainly wait a bit longer before deciding whether to post. $\endgroup$ – J W Jan 13 '14 at 21:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Piyush Grover: Quite right, of course. However, I would like to see if anyone has suggestions for improving my question. Moreover, if it's clearly inappropriate for MO then I'd rather not post at all and just leave the original question up on MSE. $\endgroup$ – J W Jan 13 '14 at 21:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Piyush Grover: I'd just like to add that I would rather, if possible, post an appropriate and well-formulated question and receive quality answers than rush to post a poorer-quality question and have it swiftly closed. With hindsight, perhaps I posted too quickly on MSE, but I am trying to learn from the feedback I am getting there. $\endgroup$ – J W Jan 14 '14 at 15:38
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    $\begingroup$ A question about teaching mathematicians engineering skills (or what engineering point of view has to offer mathematics) would be also quite interesting. $\endgroup$ – Gil Kalai Jan 16 '14 at 17:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Gil Kalai: Interesting thought. My background is originally in mathematics, but I suspect some engineering has rubbed off on me the past several years. Some of my colleagues who started off in mathematics have considerably more engineering experience. $\endgroup$ – J W Jan 16 '14 at 17:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Gil Kalai: (comment continued) I think I'll ask them what they think re your suggested questions. I'll also ponder the matter myself. $\endgroup$ – J W Jan 16 '14 at 18:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Gil Kailai: Perhaps this article sheds some light on how engineers think. $\endgroup$ – J W Jan 18 '14 at 15:43

I think your question is a case of doubt. -- If it is asked by a well-known mathematician or by an established MO user and if it is formulated well, I think chances are high that it will make its way onto the network-wide hot questions list and receive many good answers and many upvotes. Though on the other hand, if it is asked by an MO "novice" under a pseudonym, and if it is not formulated so well and maybe also contains typo's or grammar mistakes, then I guess it will likely be downvoted and closed.

  • $\begingroup$ I think I understand your point, although I would hope that a question, doubtful or otherwise, would be judged largely on its own merits (or lack thereof) and not so much on who asked it. That said, I can appreciate that one's area(s) of expertise and standing within a community do weigh in as factors. $\endgroup$ – J W Jan 14 '14 at 11:19
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    $\begingroup$ @JW: As far as I can tell, questions which have a definite answer are actually "judged largely on their own merits". -- But regarding soft questions, there is the perceived risk that if they are welcomed too much, more and more of them will be asked, and they will eventually dominate the site and the level will decrease. Mathematicians usually do like occasional good soft questions, but not too many. $\endgroup$ – Stefan Kohl Jan 14 '14 at 13:23
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you very much for the clarifying comment. Assuming my question is either already a good soft question, or (more likely) can be improved so that it becomes one, how do I know whether it isn't a soft question too many for MO? I suppose the answer is to ask on Meta, which is what I have done. So far, the impression I have is that while some people are fine with the question, just as many are not. $\endgroup$ – J W Jan 14 '14 at 18:44
  • $\begingroup$ (My assumption in the comment above could be false, of course.) $\endgroup$ – J W Jan 14 '14 at 18:50

What would perhaps be on-topic:

What are published research papers that discuss the teaching of mathematical thinking skills to engineers?

But (since MO is not an opinion or a discussion forum) what would not be on-topic:

What techniques have you used that were effective in teaching mathematical thinking skills to engineers?

As we know, not everything that is interesting and important is on-topic in MO.

  • $\begingroup$ To the downvoters: do you disagree with the first being on-topic, or with the latter being off-topic, or with both, or with still something else? $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jan 14 '14 at 17:24
  • $\begingroup$ I'm also curious about the precise reasons for the downvotes. I do appreciate Gerald Edgar's providing advice that could lead to a better question. $\endgroup$ – J W Jan 14 '14 at 18:26
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    $\begingroup$ I downvoted this answer for the second question. Questions about mathematical pedagogy are definitely on-topic on Math Overflow, so it is misleading and incorrect to suggest that the second question would not be appropriate. $\endgroup$ – Tom Church Jan 15 '14 at 16:55
  • $\begingroup$ I think the second question is also on topic. In any case I upvoted since I think the answer is useful. $\endgroup$ – Gil Kalai Jan 16 '14 at 17:11

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