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I have avoided asking elementary questions on Maths SE (and on the other communities) after observing the quality of the content here. I just want to know if it's okay to ask questions about very basic conceptions on Maths SE (or on any other community for that matter).

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    $\begingroup$ Questions of all levels are welcome here, provided that they are properly motivated and are not just copy-pasted problems. $\endgroup$ – user296602 Feb 22 '16 at 18:21
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    $\begingroup$ I guess that if your problem is really elementary, you will find the answer when you'll type the question. (don't forget to show your effort ;)) $\endgroup$ – Surb Feb 22 '16 at 19:31
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    $\begingroup$ There is a difference between "good quality question" and "high level mathematical question". The former is coveted, the latter is irrelevant. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Feb 22 '16 at 20:41
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    $\begingroup$ Is it okay to ask very basic questions on SE ? - Depends. Can your “very basic question” be answered by a simple $($or more complex$)$ Google search, or by thinking about the subject yourself for fifteen minutes ? $\endgroup$ – Lucian Feb 23 '16 at 4:46
  • $\begingroup$ See related question meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/22577/… ... most of the discussion there also applies to this question $\endgroup$ – GEdgar Feb 25 '16 at 15:59
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    $\begingroup$ I remember a question that asked for an explanation of why $6+6=12$. The guy was rewarded with a mountain of ridicule and abuse. Apparently some people thought this was "too elementary". But, elementary or not, I thought the ridicule was nasty (assuming the question was sincere). So, if you ask something very elementary, you may (sadly) get some sniping from some people. Ignore it. There are nice people here, too, and they will try to help you. Don't be afraid to ask. $\endgroup$ – bubba Mar 2 '16 at 12:41
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Yes, however when asking a basic question it is even more important to provide context, showing your work so far and what you have to work with/know.

Example:

Solve this equation for me: $3x +1 = 2x-2$.

This question contain no context, does not show any effort, and does not provide any context to the readers what you already know, thus is a bad posed elementary question.

Example:

I am working with the equation $3x+1= 2x -2$. I have tried dividing each side by $3$ getting the equation $x+1/3 = 2x/3 -2/3$, but then I still have the problem with $2x/3$ on the right hand side. By trial and error I have noticed that $x=-3$ is a solution, however how do you reach this conclusion mathematically? What is it that I am missing when I am solving the equation?

This question clearly shows what the questioner has tried and what concept has been missed. It also clearly shows that the questioner wants to learn, not just be handed the solution. What talks against this question is possibly the fact that the questioner should have googled "how to solve equations" and might have gotten an answer from there. However it seems like the questioner already knows something about equations, thus the problem might be something else, making the question correct to ask, I think.

It is not possible to answer this for all other SE-communities. For instance, on MathOverflow you should not ask an elementary question, as the SE is made for research-level questions only. Thus a general answer is not possible to give.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree with this. Sadly, I generally tend to see that "higher level" (non-basic) questions tend to have less of the context/effort to explain what has been attempted and yet there are far fewer complaints about these higher level (yet poor quality) questions than low level poor quality questions. $\endgroup$ – Shuri2060 Mar 2 '16 at 23:31
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for clarifying the difference between MathOverflow and Math.stackexchange! $\endgroup$ – Broken_Window Mar 5 '16 at 17:21
  • $\begingroup$ You understand the elaboration desired requires communicative ability which my 11 year old brother does not possess. Asking him to write like that will give him a headache. $\endgroup$ – Nick Aug 5 '18 at 15:32
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First, while questions at all levels are welcome at Math.SE, this is not true of all SE communities, so don't over-generalize from the situation here.

When contemplating a post you think is "very basic" or "elementary", I would add two caveats to the one already highlighted by others who commented, asking something that has already been asked before. [Work through answers to similar questions to get a feel for how questions should be asked and answered.]

  1. Is this a real question that you want to learn the answer to? Is it "elementary" because you already know the answer? In some cases it might be acceptable to post such a question, but be sure that you have a better motive than "showing off" that you can answer a question you yourself asked.

  2. Is this a "very basic" question in the sense that you think everyone can have an opinion about the answer, regardless of mathematical level? This is almost surely a red flag. The Math.SE community sets a goal of curating excellent content, giving insightful answers to questions at all levels. But it is not the place for chatty discussion about "controversial" topics. Most questions of this kind will be closed if they cannot be definitively answered on the basis of reasoned mathematical arguments.

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I would say most of the basic questions are already asked in this site. Please make sure to double check if you are asking a basic question, many users do make this mistake.

Basic questions are also mostly answered by google.

Other than that, though your question might be closed after some time, I am positive that you would get your answer before that. check this- Why is the set of Rational numbers countably infinite? This guy got 3 answers before his question was closed. He was satisfied indeed!

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    $\begingroup$ I think "mostly answered by Google" is a bit strong. If you don't know the terminology, your search will be difficult, and if you're searching for a mathematical equation (whose name you don't know), the search won't work at all. But, certainly Google is a reasonable first step, and there's no excuse for not giving it a try. $\endgroup$ – bubba Mar 3 '16 at 0:04
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I principle yes, it is OK.

In practice it will probably get downvoted and/or closed.

This is the reality of this site as it currently exists.

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    $\begingroup$ [Citation needed] $\endgroup$ – user296602 Feb 23 '16 at 2:40
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    $\begingroup$ +1. As the downvotes and comment votes indicate, one gets anger and denial for holding up the mirror, no matter how clear the image it presents. Thanks for speaking up despite that. $\endgroup$ – zyx Feb 23 '16 at 20:59
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    $\begingroup$ @zyx Framing the issue as "anger and denial" doesn't seem to be warranted at all; and it's worth mentioning that neither you nor the answerer have responded to my comment asking for some examples of this. I don't see well-written, well-motivated basic questions being downvoted or closed; if I'm wrong, I'd be happy to correct this. $\endgroup$ – user296602 Feb 25 '16 at 0:33
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    $\begingroup$ @T.Bongers, personally, I faced a wall of anger (and denials) for the last few years over comments on the meta opposing the increasingly ridiculous closing practices. I am not the only one. Your comment did not merit a response on its own terms, as it was pure snark and not a meaningful comment on this answer. If you really think there is not a culture of closing questions as an end in itself, have a look at the Close queue, and how little some of those frequent voters do in the way of positive contributions to the site. A state of affairs that is celebrated on the meta. $\endgroup$ – zyx Feb 25 '16 at 3:47
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    $\begingroup$ @zyx I did not intend my comment as pure snark, but rather to point out the fact that the answer makes a broad claim that I see no evidence for (and given both of your comments, I still see no evidence). And I think you're wrong to dismiss frequent close-voters as doing little to contribute positively - after all, one of SE's biggest taglines is about how the site is moderated by the users. So, to reiterate: Can you give some examples of well-motivated questions being received negatively purely for being about basic material? This is the premise I object to. $\endgroup$ – user296602 Feb 25 '16 at 3:54
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    $\begingroup$ To be extremely clear here: the words "Citation Needed" can be written under any posting that does not contain citations. They do not add anything that was not already apparent in the post. They are not specific in any way to the content of the post, since they could have been added regardless of what is there. Only the absence of citations is required to power the drive-by sarcasm, which is all that the comment conveys in most cases. $\endgroup$ – zyx Feb 25 '16 at 3:54
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    $\begingroup$ You have moved the goalposts with the subjective qualifiers "well-written, well-motivated". The question of the OP was about basic questions, period. This answer stated that they tend to get closed, which is a correct description of how the site now works. One aspect of basic questions is that it is less likely the OPs can always demonstrate useful effort, motivation or compose the questions beautifully, exactly because they are at a very basic level in their mathematical experience and education. @T.Bongers $\endgroup$ – zyx Feb 25 '16 at 3:58
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    $\begingroup$ See, that's a level of nuance that would have greatly improved the answer. Because it points out that the issue isn't just the academic level, but rather the fact that the questions tend to not actually have much effort or motivation contained in them. And as far as moving the goalposts: Those "subjective qualifiers" are exactly what I asked for in my second comment here - the one that set off this discussion. $\endgroup$ – user296602 Feb 25 '16 at 4:00
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    $\begingroup$ I don't see effort or motivation (or what pass for those things in MSE meta-land) as "the" issue. Repetitions of that formulation by users on the meta tell us about what some fraction of the posters here think, but is otherwise more a way of dismissing other views by pre-empting what "the issue" can be. What set off the discussion is your first comment, which could only have referred to the Q and A about "elementary questions", neither of which mentioned well-written or well-motivated as preconditions for a question to be interesting, answerable and postable. $\endgroup$ – zyx Feb 25 '16 at 4:09
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    $\begingroup$ By the way, whether or not you intended the [citation needed] as snarky sarcasm, it is a given that many or all of the voters who endorsed it viewed it that way and thought of the presumed sarcasm as a good thing. Hence my response that mentioned the pattern of votes on the comment more so than the comment itself, as an indicator of the temperature on meta. @T.Bongers $\endgroup$ – zyx Feb 25 '16 at 4:15
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No, it's not okay to ask very basic questions on math.SE. By "very basic questions", I'm thinking about questions that can be answered with a very basic calculator ($+,-,\times,\div$, maybe $\sqrt{}$ and a memory register).

So "What is 6 times 9?" that's too basic for this site.

But for even a slightly more difficult question, you still have to provide some "context". Because if you don't, people here will assume that you know everything and you have tried everything, which of course makes it very puzzling that you haven't figured out the answer yourself.

If you explain what you have tried, even if it didn't work, and what references you have looked at, if you didn't understand (Wikipedia is a big offender), that lets people here know that you're not just looking for someone to do your math homework for you while you play video games, and also that you don't know everything and you haven't tried everything.

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Yes. All questions about mathematics are welcome here.

Even if it's just a homework problem that you can't solve, your questions will be more than likely, answered. Provided you've shown effort or explained thoroughly what it is that you've been having trouble understanding.

I think the biggest point of this site is to learn, and to help others understand different topics, so go ahead and ask $:$-$)$.

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  • $\begingroup$ homework questions are a touchy topic at MSE. Please do read on threads regarding how we deal with homework questions and the now defunct homework tag. $\endgroup$ – Nick Aug 5 '18 at 15:30

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