When people post their homework and ask for help, a lot of other users get upset and ask questions like show what you did etc. I personally have never downvoted any questions, and if I know how to solve and I got time I will write answer without demanding anything from the author. If you don't want to solve other people's homework it is absolutely fine you can just skip that question. Does it irritate you so much that you will write unpleasant comments and downvote?

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    $\begingroup$ I suppose it is presumed that the author doesn't care to learn or hasn't invested time if he hasn't even shown his attempts. I think this is where the animosity comes from. $\endgroup$
    – ZirconCode
    Jan 4, 2017 at 22:13
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    $\begingroup$ A user can post their homework in so many different ways. It really irritates many when the question is just copy/pasted, and the comments give the air of "somebody just do it so that I don't have to". Many users who are teaching math professionally don't want to be associated with a site where that is acceptable. OTOH, a homework question can be posted with the air of genuine interest and desire to learn. While there is a market for homework service, does it have to take place on this site? Not if I have any say! This site is for askers and answerers who love math. $\endgroup$ Jan 4, 2017 at 22:57
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    $\begingroup$ I also dont like answering badly edited, copypasted questions, in that case I just ignore it. But people in comments ask author to show what he did etc. If you dont want to answer the question why dont you just skip it? $\endgroup$ Jan 4, 2017 at 23:01
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    $\begingroup$ Voting is intended to incentivize quality questions and discourage poor quality questions. Plus the entitlement and academic dishonesty that PSQs are suggestive of tend to rub voters the wrong way. $\endgroup$
    – anon
    Jan 5, 2017 at 0:13
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    $\begingroup$ I usually ask the user to show what they know or have tried. If they do, I help them if I can, and I upvote. If they whine about it, I downvote. I don't get annoyed, but I can you see why some do. $\endgroup$
    – The Count
    Jan 5, 2017 at 2:19
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    $\begingroup$ Asking what did they try is very useful for me to answer those questions. It tells me what they know about the subject and what strategy they had been using. $\endgroup$
    – user99914
    Jan 5, 2017 at 4:14
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    $\begingroup$ "I personally have never downvoted any questions...." Then you are not fully participating in the site. You should vote early and vote often. Also, read the mouseover text on the downvote button: "This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful." $\endgroup$
    – Wildcard
    Jan 5, 2017 at 4:30
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    $\begingroup$ When I apply to postdoc positions, I include in my CV that I am a very active member on this site. I find this to be a good thing, too, and somewhat of a service to the community. But if this site is synonymous with "the place where people go to cheat", then it's not a good thing to be associated with it anymore. Putting your real name gives you this benefit and it runs this risk, of being associated with a homework mill. So excuse me if I don't people just pasting their homework here to get an answer they can then paste into their answers sheet. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Jan 5, 2017 at 18:50

6 Answers 6



I personally have never downvoted any questions....

Then you are not fully participating in the site. You should vote early and vote often.

Also, the mouseover text on the downvote button states:

This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful.

Now, as to homework questions:

There is a major difference in attitude amongst the many homework questions that get posted.

Some people post with the attitude:

I have this interesting question that I am attempting to work through, but I've run into this aspect that I'm not sure how to solve, or that I am really wondering about. How can I _____? I've attempted ______ but it seems that _____, which was surprising. Is there a different approach which would _____?

Others post with the apparent attitude:

Someone solve this stupid math problem for me so that I don't have to. I hate math and think you'd have to be either nuts or a total geek to care about any of this stuff, and also I'd rather watch TV than read my geometry textbook. I don't even want to take the time to type properly, so here is a badly transcribed copy of the problem. Solve it. Oh, I see you gave me a hint but what is the actual answer?

Of course most users aren't nearly that bad. But there is at least a shadow of that attitude coming across, or some portions of it, in most cases where homework questions get severely downvoted.

If you only want to do people's homework for them and are not interested in learning or teaching people mathematics so that they increase their understanding, you may be are on the wrong site.

Also see:

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    $\begingroup$ The "apparent attitude" made me laugh but worst thing is that you can normally see those manners in such homework questions. I'm with you we only should help people who deserve it, that is, people who put effort on learning. $\endgroup$
    – kub0x
    Jan 5, 2017 at 5:08
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    $\begingroup$ Talk about attitude, it is even more of an attitude to tell someone whose views differs from yours that they "are on the wrong site". The site works best when users attempt to understand the diverse opinions on these subjective matters and strive to implement workable compromises - not by attempting to expel those whose opinions differ from yours. $\endgroup$ Jan 6, 2017 at 20:14
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    $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque, read the offending sentence again. If someone is literally (a) not interested in learning math or learning anything new about math, (b) not interested in teaching anyone math or helping anyone to learn anything about math, and (c) literally only wants to do people's homework for them...then they are on the wrong site. That's not my opinion; it is a fact. There are sites dedicated to stockpiling quiz answers so students can cheat. This is not one of them. $\endgroup$
    – Wildcard
    Jun 5, 2017 at 20:13

I personally have never downvoted any questions, ...

I took a look at your summary of voting (on your Activity page for the main site). It shows you have voted four times, two up votes and two down votes, and that you voted on Questions three times and on Answers once.

Do you see a mathematical inconsistency with your claim?

You've been on the site for all of two months, so your voting pattern is probably still evolving. That's fine, voting is your privilege. But I expect that in a year, you will have refined your philosophy of voting.

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    $\begingroup$ I voted down only to get critic badge and did this on questions that were asked several hours ago and already had lot of downvotes $\endgroup$ Jan 5, 2017 at 16:07

There are several good answers here that I won't try to repeat with mine. I generally echo the points in other answers about the site becoming associated with cheating, respect for both questioner and those looking to provide answers, and the importance of those posting questions to provide some evidence of having tried on their own before asking here.

I'm writing to add one point that I don't think is yet represented. The whole stack exchange concept is to not only provide an answer to the question in front of us but also to provide Q&A that have long-term archival value for people coming along later. HW questions that just copy-paste out of a textbook do not provide that and should be downvoted for that reason - in addition to other valid reasons provided in the other answers. Questions that provide some context about what the questioner tried and why they are stuck have a better chance of resonating with a later reader who is stuck for the same reasons - even if not on exactly the same HW problem - and correspondingly get answers that address those underlying issues.

Downvoting is one way that the community helps the system clean-up the archive over time so that the Q&A remains high quality and more generally useful.

See also:


Well I personally flag or downvote questions of homework which I find content poor, not formatted where it's been told to the user to extend his question in order to know what he has tried.

Therefore I guess that rest of downvotes are for the same cause. I do not care if the question is basic, if it's good asked and they show what they have tried then I usually help and upvote to encourage those users.


There are two behaviors here you are addressing. One I disagree with you and one I agree with you.

  • people downvoting questions with little effort (see @Wildcard's second example). On this I disagree with you for the reasons Wildcard has listed.

  • people posting unpleasant comments - This is not acceptable and I feel as a community we need to work on this as sometimes when people downvote a question they also leave a less than constructive comment.

So yes people shouldn't get mad and leave unhelpful comments but also they should not ignore the problem and they should downvote it in line with the philosophy of this site. This doesn't prevent you or anyone from giving an answer to a poorly written homework question but it may not last or be possible if the question is closed or deleted. Depending on the question I do one or both or neither of leave a constructive comment or leave a helpful answer. I will still downvote it if its of a low standard.

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    $\begingroup$ I really appreciate that this is the only answer, so far, that has even mentioned the "unpleasant comments" bit. I typed (but did not submit) a rather lengthy answer addressing the "why down vote?" part of the question. But unpleasant comments do deserve to be addressed (and my answer had not, yet), and calling such comments out is a valid criticism for "the site as a whole," whatever that may mean. $\endgroup$
    – pjs36
    Jan 5, 2017 at 20:27
  • $\begingroup$ Correction: ... philosophy of some users on the site. Opinions on these highly subjective matters have always been quite diverse - for the entire history of the site. $\endgroup$ Jan 6, 2017 at 20:09
  • $\begingroup$ Good point about unhelpful comments! Even if I downvote and am very blunt, I am always trying to say something that will help the student. Attacks are never any good ("You are lazy," etc.) but sometimes a bit of directness, bluntly stated, is quite appropriate; for example, something like: "Since you don't know what a sine is [if they said so], look in your textbook and find the definition of a sine and read it, rather than asking other people to understand and answer this problem so that you don't have to. Make sure you understand the concept of similar triangles first." $\endgroup$
    – Wildcard
    Jan 21, 2017 at 10:25

There is absolutely no problem with homework questions of any level being posted on here. As a matter of fact, I have explicitly encouraged my students to post on here.

However, what I DO have a problem with, and so do a lot of people, is dumping homework style problems with no accompanying work. These I downvote and close vote. The important thing is the "style" and the "no accompanying work".


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