I am trying to independently learn mathematics at an upper-level undergraduate and first year grad student level. It's mostly linear algebra and statistics. The textbooks that I'm reading are quickly becoming more proof-based than I've previously experienced.

Occasionally, I feel that I need someone to just bounce an idea off or to ask for some clarification. I submit questions to stackexchange sometimes, but the format of the site understandably discourages the vague and ill-formed questions that I often have.

A separate motivation is to have someone who holds me accountable for making some progress and additionally can direct my studying.

Do you have suggestions for how to find someone who could help me? Should I offer to pay a math grad student at the local university? Should I try to find a willing professor? Other suggestions?

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    $\begingroup$ The site understandably discourages the vague and ill-formed questions that I often have. - Try the Wikipedia Mathematics Reference Desk then. $\endgroup$
    – Lucian
    Oct 1, 2014 at 21:30
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    $\begingroup$ If possible, you should try to take a class or two. This way you will be able to meet professional mathematicians, many of whom would be glad to see someone who is interested in mathematics. I personally attended a small college and found that the professors were always friendly and willing to discuss mathematics with me. $\endgroup$
    – recmath
    Oct 1, 2014 at 21:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Lucian: I was not aware that this was a thing and I am super happy that I am now aware of it. Thank you! $\endgroup$ Dec 7, 2014 at 0:50

2 Answers 2


You should definitely not study all by your own. But it is never a good idea to pay someone for tutoring. A few personal suggestions:

1.Attend or audit classes and seek help from the TAs and professors.

2.Watch online lectures if you do not have access to MATH courses locally. But Im afraid there aren't many advanced math video lectures out there.

3.When there are no help around, find a classical textbook and stick to it. Read multiple times, work out all the exercises, and look for solution set online to verify your answers. (its a pity such old school learning method seemed a little bit overlooked these days)

4.If you have a particular difficult question, MSE is exactly the place you can seek answer from.

Personally, I benefit a lot from asking questions to the mathematicians I know, and from auditing their courses. But this is really a luxury that most self learners don't have. Sad but what can you do.

  • $\begingroup$ I've been working through textbooks and MIT's OpenCourseWare online videos. I'm going to look into auditing/attending classes. I have a full-time job, but I think my employer would be willing to let me go for a few hours each week. $\endgroup$ Oct 3, 2014 at 3:30
  • $\begingroup$ 3 and 4 I do. But I find to get my ideas across here and get downvoted.ouch $\endgroup$
    – user837396
    Aug 22, 2021 at 13:57

Looking at the questions you've asked, it doesn't appear that this site is discouraging your questions. (But maybe you've deleted some.)

But if you're wanting to "bounce ideas around" then there's probably a (good) question hidden in there that's worth asking.

Also, if you're performing at a research level, I don't think MathOverflow would shun your really hard questions.

For the accountability part? This site isn't the place to do it.

  • $\begingroup$ I haven't deleted any questions, and the community has been amazingly helpful. I try not to abuse the site by asking questions until I can form them well enough to be readily answerable. Perhaps I'm self-censoring too much. Thank you for the answer. $\endgroup$ Oct 3, 2014 at 3:27

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