So, I finally retired, got stuck at home by illness, and got some time to use this site more regularly. I have taught at all levels from kindergarten to university undergraduate. I tutor high school, college, and university.
Obviously the approach varies depending on where the person is mathematically. When a colleague in a tutoring center asked me why something didn't work (a moment of brain freeze as happens to us all after a long day teaching) my answer was three words "It's not linear." Other times it might be "Check the determinant" or "Is it abelian?"
On the other hand, when a high school or junior college student is floundering with a new concept, or when someone presents a tricky question that applies basic math in unfamiliar way, I take the time to demonstrate the working process. My answer may be several paragraphs in length. I'm not here to show off my flashy quick tricks, I'm here to lead people through new and challenging ideas. They may be well-worn roads to us, but they are new and sometimes difficult slopes to the learner.
When many of my answers get flagged as "best answer" I figure I'm on the right track here.
Also there's an issue about the quality of questions. In university level work there's an expectation that the writer can present a clear statement of what is going on, for example "I don't understand how this author found the matrix inverse". In high school and junior high school, if the student just posts the text question, as long as the post is literate that's pretty good.
I've been criticized a few times for my answer being too long, even though the questioner appreciated it -- these answers were checked and upvoted. Also one question which I answered was put on hold. It is a question on Euclidean geometry and trigonometry and has several issues in it that make it challenging for the high school student. The question was perfectly consistent and clear, and the student asked for any hints or help because he had no idea how to start. I was able to outline a system to start, show an inconsistency in the student's statement, and show the first part of the solution. Yet certain advanced users put it on hold because according to them the question is incomplete or unclear, which I do not understand. Another student was heavily criticized because an algebra question was given with no context; but as I commented there as well as here, junior high students are asked every day to solve equations without context and this is part of the problem in the curriculum. The student should be praised for trying to make sense of the work, not put down.
Obviously there is no hard and fast rule as to levels of questions and answers. But I would like to suggest to all users especially the most advanced users that they give a little extra leeway to beginners, both in how questions are posed and in the amount of detail needed in an answer.
What do others think about this?