I have been wondering around on some stackexchange sites for quite a while and sometimes read the hot network questions. An interesting fact that got my attention is, when a user on stackoverflow asks a somehow trivial question, it gets flooded with downvotes and attacked by sharks complaining that "this site is for professional programmers" and "get out of here, noob" or something like that (a little bit exaggerating I know, but just a little bit). On the contrary, when a user on MathSE asks a really simple question like solving $\sin x=\cos x$ that only needs some basic high school math knowledge, it gets warmly welcomed and attracts so many answers and upvotes.

So my question is, what should be the level of a math question to fit on this site? Is there any lower bound to that? And one side-note worth mentioning is, I don't have any problems with that kind of questions getting people's attention and upvotes. I am not a professional in math and sometimes I might even get stuck with such trivial questions.

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    $\begingroup$ If you mean by question about $\sin x=\cos x$ this question, then it was probably upvoted more than this type of question would be on average simply because it got into network-wide hot questions list. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Aug 28 '16 at 10:12
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinSleziak I just mentioned it as an example. And as I dug deeper, I realized that my question has a better duplicate here. And I must emphasize that I am not against anything and not saying there is anything wrong with this routine. I sometimes enjoy reading elegant answers to the questions that look dumb at the first glance. But doesn't this attract --what they say, rep-whores? $\endgroup$ – polfosol Aug 28 '16 at 13:39
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    $\begingroup$ FYI the term "rep-whores" got deprecated. That said, there are conflicts on this site around some thinking other users answer too sloppily asked question or egregious duplicates. I do not think the example you gave falls into this category though. Again, I doubt that a question like this one would typically have had much problem on SO; it was coherent, motivated, and presented with reasonable care. $\endgroup$ – quid Aug 28 '16 at 14:12

There is a difference between the difficulty-level of a question and the overall quality-level of a question. They are perhaps somewhat correlated but really only lightly.

The specific question you ask about is not hard but it was presented in a coherent way and seemed the result of a genuine effort by its asker, as explained by the context provided. Initially, the question did not use the preferred typesetting of this site, but was nevertheless rather cleanly typeset. The question is not hard when approached correctly, but one could also go astray when starting in the wrong way. This is a good question.

Moreover, the first time one learns about trigonometric functions is usually after years of structured instruction in mathematics and the context in which it arose (calculus) comes still later.

Of course this instruction happens at a young age and one learns many other things at the same time, so the "years" then will not translate into years of training later, but still the difficulty-level of this question is not a mathematical "Hello world!"

Of course, in a way it's basic, but it is not that basic either. How a question is received is often a bit of a gamble, yet I quite doubt that the analogue of this question on SO would usually be poorly received.

Further to this, I think you might have some selection bias, too. It would be perfectly possibly for this question here to only receive a comment to learn how to use MathJax plus the advice to recall that $(\sin x)^2 + (\cos x )^2 =1$. Yet, then you likely would not have seen it.

Finally, SO is for all I know not a site for professional programmers; so those that say this would simply be wrong. This particular type of misconception on the scope of the site is very unlikely to happen on this site as there in fact is a site in the SE network for professional mathematicians, which however is not this one.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the clarifications. Although I didn't have any bias against that specific question and I see similar ones every day. I was just wondering it would be nice if the programmers generally were as generous and passionate as mathematicians (Not saying that they are not, but the difference looks big), And this generosity may be a direct result of the inherent beauty of the mathematics. Who knows... $\endgroup$ – polfosol Aug 28 '16 at 13:32
  • $\begingroup$ And it seems you missed some hyperlinks in your answer $\endgroup$ – polfosol Aug 28 '16 at 13:42
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    $\begingroup$ I did not say that you have a bias against this question, but that there may be some selection bias, that is the selection of questions that you happen to see is not an unbiased sample of the site's questions. Many of the questions I see on SO are also well received and often do not seem advanced in any way. But the culture of SO is likely not a subject for this meta. I had not planned to include any links. If there is anything specific you think I should have linked to, please let me know. $\endgroup$ – quid Aug 28 '16 at 14:01

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