29
$\begingroup$

Are users encouraged to ask simple math questions in this forum as well? Most of the questions here seem advanced for a math learner.

$\endgroup$
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ See also: Is there a lower bound to the level of the questions that can be asked in here? $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Apr 28 '17 at 8:46
  • $\begingroup$ There is a separate site for advanced math mathoverflow.net. It shouldn't be confused with MSE. $\endgroup$ – Zaid Alyafeai Apr 30 '17 at 7:12
  • $\begingroup$ Did someone mention me?! (Only kidding) $\endgroup$ – VortexYT Apr 30 '17 at 11:49
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ So the now-deleted answer that begins, "It appears some students just do not know how to proceed...", that answer was posted by the same user, user12345, who posted the question? But when that answer was posted, it was under a different name, wasn't it? What exactly is going on here? $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson May 1 '17 at 4:51
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There is a lower bound coming from the age limit (a user should be at least 13 years of age). I'm not sure how well that bound holds. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen May 1 '17 at 17:31
  • $\begingroup$ For the simplest of questions you may not think appropriate or of site standards, you can try asking your questions in chat rooms, such as the main chat room or my chat room. $\endgroup$ – Simply Beautiful Art May 1 '17 at 21:07
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If other users did not seem encouraging enough, then I personally welcome the most elementary of math learners to this website. All they have got to do is to read the guide recommended below by mixedmath, and follow standard community rules. I was an elementary learner when I came to this website, and felt very welcome. I can reciprocate this by being friendly to the people who are new to this site. $\endgroup$ – астон вілла олоф мэллбэрг May 2 '17 at 0:43
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Knee jerk response: no, such questions are likely to be closed for being "off-topic" or lacking "context." $\endgroup$ – Robert Soupe May 5 '17 at 16:03
54
$\begingroup$

Yes, this is a Q&A site for mathematics at all levels. However, all questions should be asked well, regardless of how "elementary" or "advanced" the content of the question may be.

In particular, a math question at any level which follows the excellent guide How to ask a good question? should be warmly welcomed here.

$\endgroup$
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Nice and succinct and spot on! $\endgroup$ – Namaste Apr 27 '17 at 18:58
25
$\begingroup$

You are not wrong that most of the posts on this site are at an Undergraduate level; however, all are encouraged to ask questions here!


Though I have no facts to back me up here, I would say that the prevalence of undergraduate material largely comes from the way schools and universities are set up:

  • Prior to university, students in mathematics classes often have a teacher to whom they can go for help; when this is not an option students tend to do less and to succeed less often. Responsibility for the students' success is often seen as being placed solely in the hands of the teachers, and not in the hands of the students themselves.
  • Once at university, students are given far more autonomy, and much more is expected of them. Due to the greater number of students, professors are less likely to gain a personal relationship to each student; accordingly, when students fail to understand material and seek guidance, the professor is not (or at least is not seen as) the best source of help and guidance. Instead, students consult the Internet, and are directed to MSE (most of the traffic to this site is from search engine redirects, as is true of the Stack Exchange network as a whole).

The most common plagues for lower-level questions seems to be lack of context, lack of work, and lack of thought. However, these same challenges face students at all levels, and everyone can ask a question here as long as he/she adheres to the appropriate guidelines.

$\endgroup$
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Did you really mean to write, "all are not encouraged to ask questions here"? Did you have anyone in mind who is not encouraged to ask questions here? $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Apr 28 '17 at 6:28
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson oh no! I didn't mean for the word "not" to be in there... It was from an earlier draft XD I'll change that right now! Thanks for catching that... How stupid of me! $\endgroup$ – Brevan Ellefsen Apr 28 '17 at 12:48
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The downvoters of this post were most likely swayed by the typo. But you can't do much about that now. $\endgroup$ – астон вілла олоф мэллбэрг Apr 29 '17 at 6:51
  • $\begingroup$ In your last paragraph, I think it would be an ideal to add links to the guidelines you refer to: When you sayi.e. "Everyone is welcome to ask a question as long as s/he adheres to the appropriate guidelines," available, e.g. @ How to ask a good question?, et. al. $\endgroup$ – Namaste Apr 29 '17 at 22:19
  • $\begingroup$ Otherwise, without an explanation of what you mean by "appropriate guidelines" (or without the provision of links to cover those guidelines), the last paragraph is incredibly empty. $\endgroup$ – Namaste Apr 29 '17 at 22:23
  • $\begingroup$ @amWhy true, but I was trying to add some of my thoughts to MixedMath's post, and half his post is that link :) $\endgroup$ – Brevan Ellefsen Apr 29 '17 at 23:30
  • $\begingroup$ Fair response; But since you never explicitly expressed in your answer any connection to, or further elaboration of, MixedMath's post, your own answer should be self contained. $\endgroup$ – Namaste Apr 29 '17 at 23:34
8
$\begingroup$

Well, in theory, the site is supposed to be for "mathematics at all levels".

But in practice it seems that questions about elementary arithmetic are getting closed as "too narrow/specific, and not likely to be helpful to future readers". Students of elementary arithmetic will probably not be able to formulate general abstract versions of their questions; they only know about the specific problems that are causing them trouble. So, looks like those folks are out of luck.

Personally, I don't like this point of view. It's basically saying "your question isn't worthwhile because you're the only person interested in the answer". That's pretty unfriendly, in my view. And, AFAICS, there's nothing in the question guidelines that says that the question should be of interest to a broad audience. Helping the OP alone is still a worthwhile endeavor, IMO.

$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Care to cite any examples? $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Apr 30 '17 at 12:51
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson -- Two examples are the questions referenced in the first line of this question: math.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1951/…. I don't claim to have done a thorough survey. That's why I used the word "seem". Do you think my impression is incorrect? I suppose someone (not me) could do a search for all the questions that have been closed as "too localized". $\endgroup$ – bubba May 1 '17 at 4:25
  • $\begingroup$ Those two questions were closed as "too localized" back in 2011. We no longer have "too localized" as an option for voting to close, so those two questions are largely irrelevant (as is your answer here). But in any event, "too localized" never meant "too simple", nor "about elementary arithmetic". See Pete Clark's answer to the meta question you have linked to see how "bad" is different from "simple". $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson May 1 '17 at 4:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Based on my minimal experience asking questions, I think Stackexchange users expect a minimum threshold of knowledge regarding where to post questions, how to post questions, how to frame queries. I have had perfectly valid questions rejected so fast because I did not meet the semantics required - which is a bit of a steep learning curve. Also, the comments can be quite curt - because the expectations are that you know your stuff. This curve is often fine as an adult. Those learning elementary maths might not be have that level of abstraction. which means they are practically out of it. $\endgroup$ – Starlight May 1 '17 at 4:51
  • $\begingroup$ > We no longer have "too localized" as an option for voting to close. Good!! $\endgroup$ – bubba May 1 '17 at 12:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Star, if they didn't meet the semantics required, then they weren't perfectly valid questions. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson May 1 '17 at 23:48
  • $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson I think you are missing the point here - which is that the semantics include a large number of rules to be met when framing valid questions. It is far more likely that someone studying in college will possess the capability, time and inclination to master these - compared to someone in school. I have no intention of discussing the much larger issue of whether these semantics are indeed appropriate. $\endgroup$ – Starlight May 2 '17 at 3:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ So, if the semantics aren't met, then the question is invalid. If the question is invalid, then it isn't perfectly valid. Maybe that wasn't the point you were trying to make, but it is a direct consequence of what you have written. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson May 2 '17 at 5:25
6
$\begingroup$

From what I have seen so far, if a question is asked in a polite way and shows context and effort, you will get a fair response. People are genuinely trying to help. But a simple mistake (typo) could alter the meaning of the question considerably and for mathematicians it is a frustrating experience to figure out what you intended with what you wrote. If you want to use this site, read, ask a question, contribute, build up your reputation and enjoy.

$\endgroup$

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .