I am lately thinking about methods to organize my thoughts when Im thinking about a mathematical problem. Is it ok to ask the math community here about their thought processes and techniques? If not, is asking in math.stackexchange ok? (Of course this question is intended for working mathematicians.

Added (a bit) later:

The question is basicaly this: I have found that it is difficult for me to realy concentrate, that is I am constantly having irrelevent (and nonspecific) thoughts which pop in my head and I'm having trouble ignoring them. Also I am working on organising my mathematical thoughts.

I have started working on those problems in ways I will explain on the actual question. (Some sort of meditation to control my thoughts better, and Im picturing some sort of a table, with each entry being a whiteboard, to help me organize my thoughts)

So I would like to ask for comments concerning my methods, and to hear about what methods (mathematicians who also encountered this problem and consciously tried to improve these specific problems) used.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ That really depends on how the question is formulated. Have you looked at mathoverflow.net/questions/38639/thinking-and-explaining ? $\endgroup$
    – S. Carnahan Mod
    Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 11:51
  • $\begingroup$ Yes I have. Also found some other pages, but I could not find anything which helps me (Ill try to expand a bit on what is precisely my question). $\endgroup$
    – edo arad
    Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 12:00
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ I am pretty sure this question would be closed quickly as off-topic, if asked either here or at MSE. $\endgroup$
    – Todd Trimble Mod
    Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 12:39
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Keep in mind: opinion questions and discussion questions will likely be closed. Now, if you ask whether there is published research on mathematicians' thought processes... $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 13:34
  • $\begingroup$ Your question is too non-mathematical for MO. As has been mentioned there are good MO questions about thought processes. Bridging the gap between geometric thinking and formal textual thinking is a big one that many people struggle with that is a rich target, for example. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 15:16

2 Answers 2


Your question seems to be about learning mathematics (or mathematical meta skills) rather than mathematics itself. Such questions are generally considered off-topic on MO and MSE. If you want published research on mathematicians' thought provesses, your question might be well received here (as pointed out by Gerald Edgar in the comments), but I guess this is not exactly what you have in mind.

Your question is interesting not only for those who share your problem but also those who teach mathematics. Understanding different types of difficulties a student (at any level) might have and having antidotes for each type is valuable for a teacher and a teacher with suitable experience might be able to help you. Therefore I would suggest posting your question at the StackExchange site for mathematics educators:


If you ask your question there, try to make your questions specific enough so that it is possible to actually answer them. You can also try to make your question useful to teachers to make it better received. Since you are already a graduate student, I think you can — to some extent at least — consider yourself as your own teacher and that point of view can help. Teachers might also be very interested in reading your description of your problem in order to understand the difficulties their own students face.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I will probably tomorrow post my question there. Thank you. $\endgroup$
    – edo arad
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 18:47
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I have tried to formulate a good question, and I have found that I do not have a concrete question I want to ask. Actually, the precise thing is that I am not sure what sort of an answer I would like to get. I think I might need to take more time to understand more precisely what are the problems I am trying to improve. $\endgroup$
    – edo arad
    Commented Oct 21, 2014 at 9:21
  • $\begingroup$ Take your time. It is quite important that readers understand what would constitute an answer to your question and the possible answers could be useful to you. One way to go would be to describe the problem (once you have a decent description) and ask: "What to do with students with this problem?" Then you can try to apply the answers to yourself. If that doesn't work, I believe you would at least know more precisely what you need. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 21, 2014 at 9:29


For people wanting to improve their personal productivity.

  • 8
    $\begingroup$ People who want to improve their productivity should avoid SE sites like the plague. Also YouTube, social networks, and any of those sites that let you play childhood games in Flash form. DAMN THEM ALL TO HELL!!! :-) $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 5:59
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! This is also of interest to me. $\endgroup$
    – edo arad
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 18:49
  • $\begingroup$ I am not familiar with SE nor stackexchange. Is SE = stackexchange ? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 2, 2014 at 5:21

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .