# Formulating the problem helps solving it -> self answer or delete question?

More than once it happened to me that I got stuck in a derivation. Formulating the question on MSE with nicely formatted TeX and describing step by step how far I got then helped me to get forward and answer the question myself.

For me it would be great to post the question nevertheless and answer it right away, if only for later references. But once I know the answer, the question often looks trivial and it feels I should rather delete it.

Note that my question in particular pertains to proofs or proof-like derivations. Does it make sense to formulate the first part of the derivation as a question and the second part that I came up with ans an answer?

Any suggestions or similar experiences: keep+answer or delete?

• See Stackexchange's take on this: math.stackexchange.com/help/self-answer. I'd go with almost always posting it. It can't hurt. (I recognize there is more nuance to your question however.) Jul 7 '17 at 12:19
• Just by the way, this happens on other Stack Exchange sites (e.g., Stack Overflow and Super User) and in real life as well — the process of formulating a question to be clear enough for other people to understand often helps the asker to understand the problem well enough to see the answer.   I agree with hardmath’s answer and tilper’s comment — if you have a non-trivial revelation that others can learn from, you should post it. Jul 8 '17 at 19:55
• I actually had this problem last night. While posting the question, I realized the answer. Rather than posting a question and immediately answering, I just wrote a TeX document describing the question and it's answer. If you want to save your work, but are unsure whether or not it would help the website, just save the answer for yourself. Jul 12 '17 at 1:18
• Harold, one suggestion I have for you is: if, by merely taking the time to formulate the question to make it understandable to others is all it takes for you to "get it" yourself; perhaps you should have spent time, before turning to MSE, to articulate the problem, and present it clearly, so you, in the end, no longer have reason to post it? And in the future, this same scenario might help you to solve a handful of questions, on your own, having taken the time to clearly formulate the question. Jul 13 '17 at 19:40
• In programming, the prevalence of this effect has lead to rubber ducking. Jul 14 '17 at 7:51
• @amWhy I intentionally use this site to clearly formulate the problem and usually in this case then delete. But often I wish I could keep the nice writeup at least for myself. Jul 15 '17 at 8:04