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I think that math students, math teachers, and mathematicians should be expected to show some effort toward solving a problem before posting it here. It's less clear to me that this should be expected of other people who come to this site looking for help applying mathematics to a different sort of problem. In my own view, there could probably be other reasonable ways to satisfy the context requirement. Some elements that seem important:

  1. A realistic problem. This is always a bit of a "smell test", but truly realistic problems are rarely found in math textbooks.

  2. A clear, thorough, and believable description of the problem context. "I'm writing a shoot-'em-up game and I really need to know the solutions to $x^5+x\equiv 5\pmod 7$ to make an optimization work, but I can't explain why because it's a trade secret" just doesn't cut it.

  3. A big plus would be a problem involving applying a form of mathematics to a field that rarely uses that form. If someone comes in with a question about applying lattice theory to economics, that's a more valuable question, I think, than one about applying statistics to economics.

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  • $\begingroup$ I was going to complain about your portrayal of economic statistics until I saw this page. $\endgroup$ – robjohn Oct 4 '13 at 2:37
  • $\begingroup$ @robjohn, whether my example is good isn't really the point. The real point is that someone in field $X$ whose practitioners are typically trained in mathematical discipline $M_1$ should be asked to show effort if they come here with a question about $M_1$. However, if their question relates to applying mathematical discipline $M_2$, that few in their field are familiar with, I don't really think it fair to expect them to study a bunch of $M_2$ before getting help here. $\endgroup$ – dfeuer Oct 4 '13 at 3:18
  • $\begingroup$ I'm sorry if I came across as negative. I was simply agreeing with the assessment of statistical economics with a joke, and apparently failing. $\endgroup$ – robjohn Oct 4 '13 at 4:30

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