Sometimes I come up with and solve cute math problems that I then want to share with others. These are problems that don't involve any advanced math, just arithmetic and logic, maybe a touch of algebra, but they do require creative thinking and some effort. I already know the answer, I'd just like to share it with the community because I think others would enjoy it. I'm not alone in this - I've seen plenty of such questions from others on this site.

As a matter of policy, should all such questions be posted to Puzzling from now on?

To be clear, I'm talking about questions that satisfy they following criteria:

  1. The answer, or at least an answer, is already known to the question asker. The question serves more to share the problem rather than check their answer or learn more about the problem.

  2. The question is elementary, using only every day ideas and notions. These are not interesting propositions in complex analysis, difficult diophantine equations, old math competition problems, and so on.

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    $\begingroup$ It is worth noting that math problems are no longer on-topic on Puzzling, so please don't send those. Math puzzles are, however. The difference can be kind of vague, and we're somewhat relying on "I know it when I see it." For more information, see this question. $\endgroup$
    – user66698
    Mar 16, 2015 at 4:07

4 Answers 4


Yes, such things should be posted on [puzzling.se]

If the point of the question is to ask about the mathematical substance of a puzzle, generalizations, or alike, then it could still be asked here.

Yet, mainly sharing a puzzle that is somewhat math-y is not really a mathematical question, and thus not really on-topic on this site.

More generally, I have a strongly prefer questions that people actually have and need an answer to, over questions which are challenges, puzzles, and so on. [Self-answered questions to record some relevant piece of information are a special case.]

  • $\begingroup$ +1, although I do not view those self-answered questions as much of a special case. I have seen very few examples of users posting high-quality questions of that kind. And in any case a blog would be a more appropriate site for a user to record things they find interesting, since a high-quality post of that kind here would be essentially a blog post. $\endgroup$ Mar 14, 2015 at 13:17

Assuming the post is otherwise on-topic in both places, where you post it is entirely your choice.

If you post it on this site, you're likely to get an explanation of the answer and the post. If it's a purely mathematical question, phrased in mathematical terms, with an interesting question then, regardless of whether you or someone else answers, you're basically contributing a little bit of wisdom to the FAQ. If the main interest of your question was in recognizing what math is going on beneath whatever framing device made the question into a puzzle, then that's too bad, because answerers will probably ignore such fanciful things and cut right to an explanation of the mathematics - and if the math is not too interesting, well, your question will likely be seen as kind of dry, and will receive a run-of-the-mill answer. (In a worse case, they might take the fact that you didn't pull out the mathematics from the question as a lack of context and vote to close)

If you post it on puzzling.SE, answerers will probably be more appreciative of the overall quality of the puzzle - and they will be accustomed to the fact that the questioner already knows the answer, and will probably answer in turn - that is, their answer will likely take note of whatever mathematical trick is being used (even if in the context of math, such tricks might be commonplace). The audience you'd reach would actually be looking for puzzles and would actually have an appreciable amount of time to look at is, as they get much less traffic than we do.

In the case you describe, it does sound like it would be a mediocre (at best) question on math.SE, but it could be a very nice question on puzzling.SE - so it would be wise to post such questions on puzzling.SE and to suggest that people who post such questions here move them to puzzling.SE. So even if one could post it here, it would serve their intention much better to post it there.


If your goal is to share puzzles you've invented, I'd think the natural way to do this is to start a blog.


There are many puzzles at this site, and they are well appreciated by the community. So there is no problem to begin with, and therefore I see no reason to change anything.

Furthermore the proposed new policy is deliberately vague: puzzles with interesting mathematical content can stay, whereas the simpler puzzles should be moved.

Implementation will lead to a situation where MSE members with a high reputation are free to choose whether to post their puzzles here or elsewhere. Meanwhile members with a low reputation have to wait and see whether their post is considered acceptable. If not, the high reputation guys may use the new rule to close the post for being off-topic.

EDIT: There are users who in the past have made successfull posts tagged "puzzle" or "recreational mathematics", typically scoring $+50$ reputation points per post. These same users now have a $+3k$ or more reputation, and are currently involved in voting for closure of new puzzle posts! Astounding but true. I invite these gentlemen to come forward and explain their hypocrisy.

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    $\begingroup$ Puzzle-type questions attract a lot of drive-by voting, cf. bikeshedding. This is exacerbated by the "Hot Network Questions" list. The popularity of a question has nothing to do with its on-topicness. High reputation users are subject to the same rules as low reputation users, the difference is that they can typically vote for the reopening/undeletion of their questions (while low-rep users cannot), but it's still a vote. I won't comment on the analogy between low reputation users and black people... $\endgroup$ Aug 7, 2015 at 15:32
  • $\begingroup$ More info about carpentry. $\endgroup$ Aug 7, 2015 at 15:39
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    $\begingroup$ Concerning your new edit: ... where's the evidence? $\endgroup$ Aug 8, 2015 at 21:08

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