I've noticed that there's kind of a split in the questions that people ask on MSE. Some people are seeking help on homework problems that they've struggled with, while others have questions or problems relating to some subject they're studying--maybe they're seeking an explanation of an unfamiliar concept, or they're working on an independent problem that's not quite high-level enough for MathOverflow.

I can't speak for the entire community, but I'm sure I'm not alone in this experience: I'll occasionally be in a "do concrete homework problem" mood or a "explain/theorize about technical subject" mood, but be unable to easily parse through the mountain of new questions each day to find questions in one category or the other.

Has anyone considered a way to make separating these two kinds of questions easier, maybe with a "homework" tag or something?

(clarification: I've seen a lot of discussion about this on Meta MSE, but never found any questions tagged as homework before, so I assume this feature hasn't been implemented. Additionally, when attempting to give my own questions a homework tag, nothing pops up. Apologies if this has been answered elsewhere, I'm new here and not too familiar with the history.)


Just to emphasize, there currently is no homework tag.

Homework questions are not banned, per se, if they are accompanied with context (indications of effort, e.g., including an attempt one has made, (even if it's wrong); hypothesizing what directions one could take, and or citing theorems or definitions you've learned, as they relate to the question being asked, etc; context such as where the problem was encountered (in class (what class), in an exercise you were assigned (from which text)?, on a website like AoPS?, e.g.).

One great answer in the Meta MSE "catalogue of Q&A", comes from Willie Wong, a former moderator, who asked How to ask a homework question, and it addresses questions like:

  • Can I ask a homework question here?
  • How do I ask a homework question on this website?
  • What information should I include in a question about homework?
  • Why don't you provide a complete answer to my question?

Please read the question and answer in full.

Finally, this suggestions for posting also apply to what we might call "homework-like questions" (as found in a text, or an exercise sheet, or on a website, or on past exams). Some of us use the term "PSQ: problem-statement question" to describe them.

They are usually of the sort:

  • "Prove that binky bunks",
  • Solve ...
  • Evaluate...
  • Determine ...
  • Simplify ...

The same expectations for users asking homework questions apply to any user asking a problem-statement question, and needs to include some of the context as listed above, for homework.


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