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Most questions occur to me outside of class, when I'm reading a textbook or working on an assignment, so I e-mail my math professors with questions. Otherwise the alternative is wait until next class which can be anywhere from Tuesday to Thursday, Thursday to Tuesday, or once per week. I have had a few professors complain, though, that $6$ or so questions is too many for a F2F course.

From your experiences, is it typical to have, $6$ or so questions in a week of the course readings and assignments? Do you ask your professor all these questions, or ask some of them here on math.stackexchange?

(If this belongs on meta.math.stackexchange, please let me know and I'll move this question there.)

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Dear ID, This is not an answer to your question, hence just a comment: in a class of 20 people, if every person sent 6 emails a week, that would be 120 emails for that class, which is quite a lot to answer. Some people are very efficient with emails, others less so, so it's not that surprising that some professors find your emailing habits a little excessive. On the other hand, most professors will appreciate that you're engaged with the course and thinking about the material. (Even those who complained would likely still have appreciated your engament with the material; just not the ... –  Matt E Feb 7 at 1:37
... many email messages.) One approach is to email perhaps once a week, halfway between classes; save up your questions till then and send them in one message, and then save up your next batch of question until the next class. It might also be, if you delay asking your questions for a day or two, that you figure out the answers to some of them yourself. Regards, –  Matt E Feb 7 at 1:39
I usually encourage my students to send me a lot of emails. They rarely do. If I do see that a certain question comes a lot, I'd post the question and the answer on the course website. I did have a couple of times where I found students asking too many questions, but I often noticed that they usually able to answer these questions themselves if they were bothered enough to think about it. At these cases I usually remark that perhaps it's better if they think about the question, writing it in full details first, and then if they still can't find the answer, contact me. –  Asaf Karagila Feb 7 at 1:42
@MattE good points. $\lceil \frac{120}{7} \rceil = 18$ e-mails a day is quite a lot. Still, one might argue that interaction is quite possibly the purpose of having a professor. Otherwise, what would be the difference from watching videos of lectures and reading the textbook? –  NaN Feb 7 at 13:04
If that's the case, you certainly have my sympathy. However, I'm surprised the professor is able to get away with this. I believe every place I've taught at (outside of a public high school) has had a lower limit of at least 3 office hours per week (in fact, the lowest might have been 4 or 5 per week), and at most places (maybe at all places) we were strongly encouraged to vary the time and day (i.e. some morning, some afternoon; some on MWF, some on TuTh). In my case, I certainly had "regulars" come by, but for the most part I used the time to grade quizzes/tests and for other such things. –  Dave L. Renfro Feb 10 at 15:52

2 Answers 2

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I think it depends a lot on the course, school, and professor. Most professors I have at my university (Brigham Young University) would be more than happy with that, but there's one or two that I would feel less comfortable meeting face to face with so many questions. I have friends in other schools that don't feel comfortable at all meeting their professors.

As for how many questions you have, I think that depends on how hard the course is and how hard the professor makes it. For introductory analysis (I got an A+) it was typical for me to average about one question on each assignment, but I know that same course was taught by another professor where most students had no idea how to do the homework, yet others make the homework easy enough that I probably wouldn't have had any questions all semester (I help a lot of friends with homework, so I see all this :) )

I think it would be a good idea to just go talk to your professor and ask him or her what is appropriate and expected. There's a lot to be gained by meeting face to face. My relationships with professors have been invaluable in securing research jobs which led me to better things down the road. Later, I will ask them to write letters of recommendation for me, and they'll be better letters having known me.

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My professors and TAs had a special office hour which was once per week, and where students would be able to come and ask questions. It took me some time to realize that these kind of oppurtunities were a great way to learn and better understand.

As you might know from here, typing good answers takes quite some time and I suspect that asking your questions en face would save all parties some time. Also, they get to know your face and see that you are interested and willing to learn.

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