# Are there a “minimal requisites” that people should have to ask here?

I've seen this question in the last minutes, and I noticed that the OP has a lot of issues understanding basic (really basic) mathematics.

It's not just that the question is really bad written, or that the tittle doesn't match completely the body of the question, it's the fact that the OP seems not to understand ANYTHING about mathematics: Everyone was trying to explain him how to do a substitution, but he didn't get it, and it was very, very clear.

I wanted to comment something like "You don't have the minimal requisites for asking on this site", but I thought this might be rude and offensive (and I don't have the authority to say something like that). However, I don't think it's wrong to have such a requisites and I wondered if they actually (informally) exist.

Do they exist? Commenting something like I've said would be bad? I'm not pretending that this site should take care only of "advanced" mathematics problems, of course not, it's just that (IMHO) people who ask should have a basic level of mathematics to establish a dialogue with the people who answer.

• We get questions about arithmetic, and you're worried about a question about polynomials? – Gerry Myerson Mar 29 '15 at 5:29
• @GerryMyerson I don't get your point... – Daniel Mar 29 '15 at 5:29
• You are complaining about someone who has trouble with Algebra, when there are questions asking us to find $(1/2)+(1/3)$. – Gerry Myerson Mar 29 '15 at 5:33
• @GerryMyerson I think what Daniel is getting at is that maybe those sort of questions should not be allowed. – Paul Plummer Mar 29 '15 at 5:35
• @DiscipleofBarney No, there's no problem with the question, the problem is that explaining the answer is taking more lines than it should! The OP has not the background and/or experience to understand the answer, that's what I'm complaining here. – Daniel Mar 29 '15 at 5:38
• @DanielEscudero So you actually have problem with people asking questions which they do not have the previous knowledge to understand any answer given? I don't think that is necessarily clear from the way you wrote the question. – Paul Plummer Mar 29 '15 at 5:41
• @DiscipleofBarney You're completely right. Let's say I figured it out while I was reading your comment. I'm sorry, I posted this question as soon as I could, and my english grammar is limited for some porpuses. – Daniel Mar 29 '15 at 5:43
• I think this question is really just a case of lack of context. Were it more clear to us how much the OP knew, it would be easier to write an answer helpful to them (e.g. we might avoid laying down "obvious" facts they didn't know) and people who wouldn't want to explain things at such a level could just ignore the question. It's not an issue of minimal requisites - it's just a special case of existing rules on the site. – Milo Brandt Mar 29 '15 at 14:45
• The question referenced has since been removed. – DanielV Apr 5 '15 at 21:54
• @DanielV You're right. Should I do something? Delete the question or something? – Daniel Apr 5 '15 at 21:56
• @DanielEscudero Not delete , but if you could edit it to include the relevant information it might help. Or you could leave it alone. – DanielV Apr 5 '15 at 21:57

Taken straight from the tour of this website: "Mathematics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people studying math at any level and professionals in related fields." Personally, I think that is how it should stay. (That doesn't mean we can't have a quality standard on questions though, but this is tangential to your question.)

Maybe the comments or answers you are referring to in that question were deleted but the situation does not look as bad as you describe. One of the answers doesn't even look helpful at all, especially for a person asking this sort of question and then the OP tries to get it cleared up through the comments... nothing wrong with that.

Personally, I do find it frustrating to deal with someone who is clueless about what they are studying, and the background that is essentially required, so I won't spend a bunch of time dealing with them after a comment or two, and making sure that my response to their question was actually clear. One of the most frustrating interactions, along the lines you allude to, I have seen though was coming from a math grad student asking a question in real analysis (I wasn't even part of the conversation and it was making me frustrated), so I don't think it has much to do with "level". I suggest if dealing with situations like that bother you so much then quit dealing with them.

Also, I don't think it is necessarily rude to point out that someone should brush up on some basics or prerequisites to understand what is going on, when their question requires those basics.

• You're right, some comments were deleted. Thanks for your answer! I'll take your advice and I will just quite once I begin to feel frustrated. I didn't mean to be rude, offensive or selfish, I dislike that kind of people. Again, many thanks. – Daniel Mar 29 '15 at 5:47

I think there are minimal requisites that should be assumed, but these vary from question to question.

If a graduate student asks a question how to compute the cohomology of a CW complex, it should be presupposed that the essential definitions and methods to do so are available - if it turns out they don't know what this coboundary operator people try to explain them about is, then the minimal requisites for this question have not been met, and I'd suggest the asker to maybe reread stuff or start with more basic questions.

If on the other hand some absolute layperson asks if infinity exists, say, the minimal requisites may (and should) be assumed much lower, say basic operations with real or just natural numbers.

• yes it is difficult to handle math questions when someone can't count to one hundred, but I was able to introduce my nephew to basic polynomials with wood blocks to show the inverse square rule when he asked about the strength of magnetic fields. He is not yet ten years old. it is an interesting challenge to show applications of polynomials in pure arithmetic (no algebra, which he is not ready for). – hildred Apr 7 '15 at 16:37

I would also say that part of the problem for new users (myself included) is that it can be hard to know exactly how much detail you should put in your question. Or perhaps I should say, it is hard to know a template for your question.

Your first question is very daunting, from the syntax of writing it, to the fact that it could just be a duplicate that missed, or you could be asking something so elementary that people would look sideways at you.

Now maybe I just looked in all the wrong places, but I never saw any kind of beginner's guide to asking a question. I think it would help at least some of these cases.

• I am aware there is a help section, I just don't think I understood it very well. There is every chance that is just me. – flabby99 Mar 29 '15 at 18:53
• There's no problem with that. I also read the help section when I began and It couldn't help me 100%. This is just a matter of learning. My complain is not about the syntax or readability of the question but the ability of the OP to improve it if necessary (with help) and understanding the answers. – Daniel Mar 30 '15 at 10:49
• I would agree that this OP is not a very good example of someone who has a basic understanding of mathematics ( And there is many others). All I was trying to say is that for some people (not necessarily him) the mistake can be in manner of the asking of the question. A few quick down votes on your question can be enough to make you feel like an idiot. At that point you may get frustrated and give up to an extent. I guess what I am trying to say is that without a great guide to asking questions, some people can get shot down before they even start. – flabby99 Mar 30 '15 at 12:10
• I fully agree with this post. Its not at all obvious how to ask a good question until you've been on this site for a few months, nor how to give a good answer. – goblin Apr 5 '15 at 12:57
• I think it would be immensely helpful if new users could browse the front page and only see examples of good questions. The need for some kind of beginner guide would be greatly reduced if users could just follow the example of the people before them... (Unfortunately that would either require some change in the software or a more consistent moderation and response to bad questions.) – Najib Idrissi Apr 5 '15 at 13:18
• @NajibIdrissi What you have brought up is interesting. Learning by example is a great method of learning. Perhaps a small set of examples of good questions and answers could be made easily accessible to new users, just as a guide of sorts. A few notes on why these made good Q/A would be fantastic, though maybe that is asking too much. – flabby99 Apr 5 '15 at 19:53

I agree with your feeling about the problem you mentioned, however I think it's also very useful for beginners to formulate their questions. It could be that this site does a separation of levels but this seems difficult to manage.