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I'm a programmer learning maths on the side while working. I find one of the best ways to learn is to try and come up with my own proofs from first principles. I suppose these will either a) be wrong or b) be a variant of some existing (possibly canonical) proof.

For example, I wrote a proof of the "uniqueness" of the reals, which is probably a super basic subject to a lot of people here and has canonical proofs. The reason I'd like to post mine is that I've got a niggling feeling that I'm missing some details and/or making unwarranted assumptions. But effectively it would amount to posting my proof and asking whether it's correct.

Is this appropriate on math.stackexchange? I searched the meta forum but I couldn't find an unambiguous answer.

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    $\begingroup$ You might have a look at other questions on meta tagged (solution-verification) to see some past discussions. Some examples: Are “please check my proof” type of questions proper? or Are “Verify if I'm correct” questions really on-topic?. And probably this post might be useful for you, too: Best way of asking “check my proof” questions $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Jan 18 '18 at 10:08
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks Martin, there was one I'd missed there. It seems the consensus is that they're not really appropriate due to very limited usefulness for anyone but the poster. I totally get that, but at the same time I very much disagree with the sentiment that you should be able to check your own proofs. For someone coming into mathematics outside learning institutions, it seems extremely likely I'll make mistakes on some of the basics such as fields and set theory that might have a knock-on effect on further understanding. Is there anywhere else I can go that's OK with more transient content? $\endgroup$ – Simplex Jan 18 '18 at 10:29
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    $\begingroup$ I will also add that you might have a look at questions on the main tagged (proof-verification) to see whether they are similar to what you want and how they were received. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Jan 18 '18 at 11:05
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    $\begingroup$ I was considering whether to post also an answer here, but I am not sure whether I have much to add to what I already wrote in the first part of this answer. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Jan 18 '18 at 11:24
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    $\begingroup$ @Simplex You should be able to check your own proofs if the task is coursework. I don't think it's ethical for the site to be used as a pre-grading service. The same goes for material that one would like to publish, for example: I don't see this as an editing service. That's the main problem we're trying to avoid, I think. In most cases though, if you are worried about your proof, you can probably actually formulate a question around the step you think you might have made a mistake at. As for those who aren't doing it for coursework and don't care about sharing in print, I have no solution. $\endgroup$ – rschwieb Jan 18 '18 at 13:58
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    $\begingroup$ Chat might be a solution, maybe. If the reading isn't too heavy, and you post a link in chat, I bet someone will take a look and spot major problems. $\endgroup$ – rschwieb Jan 18 '18 at 13:59
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Many people ask questions of this sort on main with the tags and . Community reaction to them is not uniform.

One problem is that they are not so useful to later visitors, and thus go against the StackExchange model of making a lasting Q&A. If the site concisted mostly of check-my-answer type posts, I believe it would fail. There is simply too little lasting value. In particular, while questions are great, it is really the answers (and often, the great answers) which draw people to the site and buoy on the community. Check-my-answer type posts very rarely allow for good answers. Another problem is that sometimes the answer is "Yes, your proof is correct." This is a boring answer, and often this sort of answer is downvoted.

On the other hand, many view Math.SE as a valuable teaching tool, and include check-my-answer questions in their set of instructional tools. These questions are also usually very easy to answer, since along with increased mathematical maturity comes the ability to recognize when an answer is or is not complete. Thus check-my-answer questions appeal to new and reputation-hungry users.

I typically don't pay any attention to them. In fact, the two tags and are my only ignored tags (though as a moderator I still find myself reading some of these from time to time).

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  • $\begingroup$ Good points, thanks for your response. "With increased mathematical maturity comes the ability to recognize when an answer is or is not complete." I think this is my problem, but the trouble is how to get to that point without being able to study at a university, in my case because of time constraints. Someone else mentioned chat, which seems like a good idea. Also I might look into finding a tutor I can send proofs to. $\endgroup$ – Simplex Jan 18 '18 at 20:30

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