I've just spotted this site on the blogs. At least that's where I think I saw it first.

How is this site different from math.stackexchange.com?

  • 18
    $\begingroup$ The answer to this question doesn't seem to be obvious from glancing at the front page. Can we fix that? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 30, 2013 at 8:08
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @QiaochuYuan yes please! $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 30, 2013 at 10:53
  • $\begingroup$ @QiaochuYuan: I agree it could be good to expand "MathOverflow is a question and answer site for mathematicians." to something more telling, which I assume would also change the mouse-over description 'mathematcians'. Indeed, we had a somewhat inconclusive debate about this on the old-meta; I do not link to it as the thread is a bit confusing touching on multiple subjects. The current one is the one we always had; perhaps we should restart this discussion here; where by here I mean this meta, not this question. $\endgroup$
    – user9072
    Commented Jun 30, 2013 at 14:05
  • $\begingroup$ See also: Differences between mathoverflow and math.stackexchange. on Mathematics Meta and What's the difference between MathOverflow & Mathematics.SE? on Meta Stack Exchange. $\endgroup$ Commented May 6, 2019 at 11:01

1 Answer 1


This site is mainly for professional research mathematicians, that is professor of mathematics at universities, advanced graduated students in mathematics (students working towards a doctoral degree in mathematics and close to completing their studies), and alike.

The primary goal of the site is to have a place to allow them to ask and answer research level mathematical questions, the sorts of questions they come across when writing or reading articles or graduate level books. [This sentence is essentially how the official description of the site started when it was not yet part of the network but existed as a standalone site, which it did for about three and a half years; see an answer on Frequently asked questions for MathOverflow for a fuller version.]

Certain other types of questions that are not mathematical questions, but for example questions specific to the work-life of a research mathematician, sometimes get also asked on the site. Whether or not they are acceptable is a matter of continuing debate and there is no actual consensus on this matter. The reality is they do get asked, some of them stay open, some of them get closed. The official suggestion is not to ask such questions before being familiar with the site. (See the question mentioned above.)

It should however be stressed that not everbody on the site falls in the above mentioned categories and there are certainly no formal requirements to participate in the site. However, for somebody not having a mathematical knowledge quite close to that of somebody having a doctoral degree in mathematics (think of at least five years of studying mathematics at the university-level) this site is likely not a good fit (at least as an active participant).

By contrast, math.SE, the site you mention, which counts among its users also many research mathematicians (in fact there is a considerable overlap of the respective user-bases) welcomes mathematical questions at all levels. Numerous questions from this site are transferred to math.SE, as they are perceived as not being at a suffciently advanced level for this site.

  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Here is a link to an older question on the meta-site of math.SE discussing this question meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/41/… $\endgroup$
    – user9072
    Commented Jun 28, 2013 at 20:43
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Not quite sure why somebody downvoted this $\endgroup$
    – Yemon Choi
    Commented Jun 28, 2013 at 20:44
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @YemonChoi I was somewhat surprised too, but then I did not yet figure out how voting is supposed to work on meta. In any case, what one might consider as not optimal is that I focus on the target audience as opposed to the intended content. I however did this on purpose as it came up frequently that research level mathematics is not quite a very understandable notion for somebody not close to it. Also, I thought if a pseodonymous user says there are no formal requirements and it is really about the individual knowledge it should be quite credible. $\endgroup$
    – user9072
    Commented Jun 28, 2013 at 20:50
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Five years at the university level is merely finishing M.Sc. in Israel... $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Commented Jun 28, 2013 at 20:52
  • $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila: but then with an M.Sc. in math one is quite close to somebody holding a doctoral degree, as regards (general) math knowledge, and I said at least. Also I did not want to be overly exclusive. $\endgroup$
    – user9072
    Commented Jun 28, 2013 at 20:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I don't know. I don't feel remotely close to the folks I met on Young Set Theorists 2013 that just finished their Ph.D... $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Commented Jun 28, 2013 at 21:01
  • $\begingroup$ So this is like Software Engineering but for Mathematics $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 28, 2013 at 21:24
  • 11
    $\begingroup$ @Pureferret: no, not quite. I will clarify this in my answer. Thanks for making this source of misunderstanding explicit. Programmers is AFAIK mainly about things related to working as a programmer. This site is very much not mainly about working as a mathematician. It is about mathematics but at the level of interest to the above mentioned group. (There are rarely question that touch upon working as a mathematician, but these are sparse and considered as off-topic by some, though this is a controversial matter.) $\endgroup$
    – user9072
    Commented Jun 28, 2013 at 21:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Pureferret: perhaps the analogy is closer than I thought as I had a a possibly wrong idea about the site Programmers. In any case I will make clearer what this site is intended for. $\endgroup$
    – user9072
    Commented Jun 28, 2013 at 21:44
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @quid it's a common misconception about Software Engineering that I should have taken into account. In essence, Software Engineering is for whiteboard questions, and Stack Overflow is for less theoretical make-it-work type questions. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 28, 2013 at 21:47
  • 13
    $\begingroup$ @Pureferret: I think, if one is looking for an analogy with an existing SE site, a better one would be with Theoretical Computer Science. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 29, 2013 at 5:45

You must log in to answer this question.

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