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Hi, I'm relatively new here and I have two questions, one on a specific situation and another one on etiquette:

While I was typing an answer to this question somebody else posted an answer containing only a hint (which I could not make much sense of and which has been deleted in the meantime). Since my original answer gave away a complete solution, I decided to delete my answer and to post another answer containing only a sketch of the argument. I think this sketch should enable a reasonably motivated student to complete the argument but it is not entirely trivial. The idea was to let the student try a little harder and if he comes back and has further questions, I was eventually going to unveil the complete solution. Is this a viable option? The main obstruction is of course how long my deleted answer will persist.

My second question is on etiquette. Is it more common only to hint at a solution rather than giving a complete answer?

Thanks.

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  • $\begingroup$ Re last paragraph: I think it is primarily a question of how you think you can be of maximal help to the OP. In my opinion, when one learns mathematics, the most useful thing to do is to solve exercises and think about why something is true. Being given complete solutions to exercises that are meant to be solved by the student defeats that purpose (and frustrates the often considerable effort of the teacher in coming up with nice exercises). But there are other people here, who hold the exactly opposite view. Searching a little will give you several discussions on meta, concerning this topic. $\endgroup$ – Alex B. Jan 10 '11 at 2:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Alex: Thanks a lot for these reflections and remarks. After coming here because of repeated mentions over on math.MO, I had some difficulties adapting, but I think I've figured it out by now. I also think that one should try to avoid giving away too much, particularly when it's homework. In my experience, it is way too easy to fool yourself into thinking that you understood something just because you knew where to look it up or whom to ask. So I completely agree with what you say (not to forget about the poor frustrated teachers). Ok, now I'm curious about other opinions and start searching. $\endgroup$ – t.b. Jan 10 '11 at 10:01
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A deleted answer does not persist in eyes of other users unless they are moderators (you and moderators can still see it, and use 'undelete' button to return it). People would usually provide hints to homework questions, but often present complete solutions to other inquiries.

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    $\begingroup$ Those with 10,000 rep or higher can also see deleted answers. (Anyone with 10,000 rep is granted some, but not all, moderator priveleges.) $\endgroup$ – Matt E Jan 8 '11 at 14:12
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you! Let me be more precise: I'm concerned that my deleted answer will be really deleted at some point so that I can't undelete it anymore. $\endgroup$ – t.b. Jan 8 '11 at 14:14
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think it will be completely deleted after a certain amount of time passes, I think it can be 'completely' deleted only manually by very few people. $\endgroup$ – InterestedGuest Jan 8 '11 at 15:43
  • $\begingroup$ Very good, thanks again. In any case I could just store a text file on my computer... $\endgroup$ – t.b. Jan 8 '11 at 16:02
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    $\begingroup$ "Completely" deleting anything goes against a certain design philosophy; I don't think it's possible to do without getting into the code. That is, I don't think a moderator who is not an admin can do it. $\endgroup$ – Qiaochu Yuan Jan 8 '11 at 18:54

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