I wonder whether it is ok to post questions (a problem, a proposition) that I know the answer to, but would like to share and perhaps "challenge" people :) I do run into such questions a lot, and figure out them myself most of the time. But I would like others to see it and enjoy it. Is it ok to post questions like that?

Thanks for your time!

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    $\begingroup$ I would suggest that if you do that you make it clear that you have a solution. $\endgroup$ Nov 27, 2014 at 1:40
  • $\begingroup$ You can find some older discussions here: meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/9362/… (Look also on the questions shown there on the right, among linked questions.) $\endgroup$ Nov 27, 2014 at 7:53
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    $\begingroup$ I feel like such a thing is better suited for the MSE blog.. $\endgroup$ Dec 7, 2014 at 23:22

3 Answers 3


There is a skill in asking questions, and I think these ones are particularly tough to ask properly.

The main issue is that when you ask a question here you are asking it of people "ranked" above you. The scenario is not that of professor asking student (as is the usual setting in university or school, with questions from books or seminar sheets), but student asking professor$^{\dagger}$. When you ask a question you are immediately putting yourself in the place of the student, and you are asking the professor for an answer. So, with these questions, in effect you are a student challenging the professor: the student had better be careful!

One good way of sharing your fun is to ask for a "better" proof. Professors like a challenge, so when you ask them to solve the problem you could say.

"I have this proof, but it is ugly. Surely there is a better way!"

But my main point it: be humble. Do not say anything like,

"I have a wicked proof of this theorem! Can you do the same?!? -----LOOK AT ME I AM AMAZING!!!!!!!"----

(The bold typing is implicit, and will be read by those playing professor for the duration of the question.)

$^{\dagger}$ This is a metaphor. For example, when Derek Holt, Professor at Warwick and jolly clever chap, asked his one and only question, he was putting himself in the place of a student. He had, for the duration of the question, rescinded his chair. If a common or garden undergrad had answered the question, then the undergrad would, in effect, have a fancy chair at a fancy institution. It is a metaphor. It is the game we all play here every day.


I am always a bit uncertain how I feel about such questions, but one thing that is extremely important is that if you do post such a question, you make it absolutely clear that you already have a solution yourself.

But even then, it is not really a question (unless you count "can anyone else also solve this").


Yes, you can and share the excitement.

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    $\begingroup$ Why has this answer been downvoted? $\endgroup$
    – Joao
    Nov 27, 2014 at 4:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Joao Only the people that downvoted can give you a clear answer. See: meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/17462/… $\endgroup$
    – layman
    Nov 27, 2014 at 6:13
  • $\begingroup$ @MathIsHardNoItsNot I saw that and upvoted it. I downvoted both questions you linked to. $\endgroup$
    – Joao
    Nov 27, 2014 at 6:27
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    $\begingroup$ I would say that people probably downvote this because they disagree (at least, this is why I downvoted it). $\endgroup$ Nov 27, 2014 at 8:21
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    $\begingroup$ Voting is different on meta $\endgroup$ Nov 27, 2014 at 8:34

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