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To explain my situation with math as a form of context to the question. I have a college education, which enables me to understand some of the whole range of subjects treated here at Math SE. However, I haven't used any hard math in the past years (my line of work doesn't usually call for it).

I sometimes come across some questions that I can solve, albeit with some difficulty (and probably with some errors), using the math I learned (and remember). However, I am pretty good at creating simulation algorithms, and those same questions could be solved resorting to say, a Maxima script.

Knowing this isn't Stack Overflow (i.e. not dedicated to programming), I ask if this is adequate behavior and if these kinds of answers are a good fit here. Most questions I see are set on analytical solving, which as I explained isn't the best thing I can do at the moment.

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    $\begingroup$ Some (not all) questions tagged algorithms specifically ask for a computer algorithm that would solve the problem. $\endgroup$ – Post No Bulls Dec 28 '13 at 5:53
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    $\begingroup$ ... and others welcome both analytic and algorithmic solutions, like this recent one. $\endgroup$ – Post No Bulls Dec 28 '13 at 6:35
  • $\begingroup$ I like answers like these, especially if there are cool pictures/plots included. The distinction between "evidence" and "proof" should be recognized, but I think such answers could potentially add some nice flavor to the site. $\endgroup$ – Antonio Vargas Dec 28 '13 at 10:41
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    $\begingroup$ There is nothing wrong with using presenting algorithmic methods to come up with a solution. It's even okay to post numerical solutions if you have reason to believe there is no nice closed form. (I'll put forward my own answer here as an example.) But one should avoid giving approximate solutions when an exact solution is requested explicitly, or when there is no indication that an approximation is the best that can be done. In these cases, the numerical results are best left as comments to inspire/help verify exact answers. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Gruber Dec 28 '13 at 23:30
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Purely because of the nature of the problems that are posted, I'm not actually sure how a simulation algorithm can be used to put forth a solution, but if you can find a question where such an approach properly answers the question, I don't see any reason why you can't. There's nothing inherent about simulation algorithms that automatically makes it not suitable for the site at all.

That being said, it may not be as helpful as an "analytical answer" if the latter is what the question asker looks for, and can suffer if someone requires a "normal" proof.

Short answer: There's no inherent problem that I know of, but it may not necessarily help others as much.


However, I also can't help but also address the first part that you've mentioned, even if that's not the main question you were asking:

To explain my situation with math as a form of context to the question. I have a college education, which enables me to understand some of the whole range of subjects treated here at Math SE. However, I haven't used any hard math in the past years (my line of work doesn't usually call for it).

I sometimes come across some questions that I can solve, albeit with some difficulty (and probably with some errors), using the math I learned (and remember)...

I'm in a similar boat (the only real difference is that I graduated more recently), and also find myself somewhat limited in the questions I can answer (the "limited in the questions I can answer" bit actually applies for me on the other Stack Exchange sites as well).

The main thing is that there's nothing wrong with being only able to answer a small portion of the questions. Sure, you may not be able to become one of the top users on the site, but you still can fill your own niche and be a useful member of the community. Your savvy with simulation algorithms sounds like something that could fill a niche just fine.

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  • $\begingroup$ Your answer covered all basis quite well. The main reason simulation is to me more attractive than analytical answers hangs mostly because I'm more used to using computation to solve problems. With this question I wanted to clarify the usage of these kinds of answers here, which this answer did. $\endgroup$ – Doktoro Reichard Dec 28 '13 at 19:12

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