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    Hi All,

    I'm a programmer by profession hence my knowledge of and finding this site. Good job. I'm also hoping to study Mathematics next year and am keenly interested in this sort of thing - would it therefore be worth setting up a "maths overflow" for lower level discussion? I can see this site is aimed at research level maths far beyond that of the average undergraduate and wonder if there is any interest in providing a similar service to undergraduates? Reasons why:

    - Nothing like this exists. There is nrich and some other smaller sites but nothing with the ease of an "overflow" site.
    - I'm a big believer in supporting other students and getting help myself. I taught myself programming through communities like these.
    - Keeps people like me from asking questions you guys would do in your sleep.
    - We could extend "downwards" in terms of levels.

    • CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
    • CommentTimeFeb 19th 2010 edited
    Mathoverflow is supported by our magnificent benefactor Ravi Vakil (I'm a big fan of honorifics). StackExchange is not free, and I don't think that the people who currently run this site would be interested in paying for such an "extension downwards". I think that if another mathematics related "overflow site" were set up for lower-level questions, the administration here would gladly link to it in the FAQ and _maybe_ even maintain an official affiliation, but based on the staff's responses to other suggestions of this form, I do not see them being involved with the creation or management of such a site because it's too much work and too expensive.

    I have to warn you that even if such a service is set up, it is likely to suffer from the same problem that many related forums have, which is homework spam. One benefit of concentrating on research-level questions on MO is that it gives us a concrete reason to reject homework questions, which keeps the quality of the discussion high. A similar service aimed at undergraduates would have to decide whether it was willing to do the same and, if so, where to draw the line between genuine discussion of an interesting concept and helping undergraduates do their homework.

    @fpqc Hmmm ok, thanks. I read up on the history of MathOverflow and 5 years of funding, I think, definitely qualifies for the title of "magnificant benefactor"!

    @Qiaochu I can see that as being an issue, actually. It'd be something other than funding that would need to be overcome. I agree homework spam is common and see it, although not too often, on SO. Mostly, questions pasted in verbatim aren't answered or are closed as too localized, or both, although homework questions do get answered if the user says "I'm trying to understand why this..." etc. I guess it depends on how the question is asked as always - I imagine if you've ever lectured (I haven't - no degree) you have the same experience; students who ask why and students who say "solve this for me". My hope (maybe misplaced) is that it wouldn't be like that.

    Ok well back to the drawing board - I'll have a think about this.

    I would say that fpqc is basically right: you are free to create such a site, of course, and we would almost certainly end up directing people there. I don't forsee creating any sort of official links, but I think it would be great if such a site were to exist and could be made to work (though, like Qiaochu, I think HW would end up being a big problem).


    Nothing like this exists.

    Are you sure of that?


    Nothing like this exists. There is nrich and some other smaller sites but nothing with the ease of an "overflow" site.

    Actually, now that you mention it, Eric Koslow, one of the regulars at meta.SE, runs Tutorii, an SE site for high school and college students to exchange help with a variety of stuff. They have jsMath implemented, so it seems like a natural place to direct "lower level" questions.


    Anton, that Tutorii site looks like the activity level is so low it would be completely overrun if we started referring people there.


    Yes, it's true that it's not very active. I would imagine that they'd appreciate the traffic, but I'll email the admin to make sure.

    The topology Q&A board:

    handles plenty of questions (not just in topology: they have separate forums for topology, algebraic topology, algebra and analysis) from the undergraduate level to roughly master's level. Some of the contributors there are a bit crotchety, and it is often not closely moderated, but it certainly works to get answers to questions at this level. I think you can ask any one question there and not get called out for homework, but if you post multiple questions at once without indicating work, people will generally call you out on it. This is a reasonably good system, it seems to me.

    (I used to answer questions there in the dark pre-MO days. But it is not so interesting for research mathematicians.)