In my reading of mathematics I often run into propositions that are stated without proof. If I can I write out the proof for myself. I have these proofs scattered over notebooks, which is not very convenient.

I think it would be great if math.SE had a special "sub stack" where people could post their proofs of propositions, with a reference to the original source of the proposition (a book, a paper, etc.). One could choose to make one's proof public, so that others can vote on it, and offer feedback (maybe point out missteps or gaps, or ways to improve it).

I'm thinking of something similar to github's gist, but for math rather than source code. From what I can tell, the site already has all the necessary "plumbing" to make the implementation of this additional feature relatively easy.

Of course, the same format should allow the posting not only of proofs, but also of other mathematical items, such as definitions, counterexamples, and constructions.

Over time, this could grow into a great repository of mathematical "brass tacks".


There is the proof wiki.


The way to do this on math.SE is to ask the proposition as a question, then post your proof as an answer. SE explicitly encourages asking and answering your own questions.

If you have something else in mind, the SE network is not the place for it. Try PlanetMath, Wikipedia, or a personal blog.

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    $\begingroup$ Asking and answering my own "question" would be fine, I suppose, but I'd hate to see anyone submit an answer under the mistaken (but entirely reasonable) assumption that I'm asking the "question" in earnest... Besides, either I'd be accepting a lot of my own answers (which doesn't seem right somehow) or see my acceptance rate artificially deflated... Hmmm... $\endgroup$ – kjo Sep 11 '11 at 0:14
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    $\begingroup$ Related to kjo's point, wouldn't this be a "seeded" question? Aren't seeded questions discouraged? $\endgroup$ – Srivatsan Sep 11 '11 at 0:24
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    $\begingroup$ The way to stop people from making the assumption that you are asking the question in earnest is to note in the question that you already know the answer and are about to post it and you're just asking for feedback. Though I would look into this "seeded questions" thing first. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Sep 11 '11 at 0:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Srivatsan: no. Seeding refers specifically to the practice of asking a question you don't care about for the sake of making a new site seem like it has activity. This would be a question the OP does care about (since after all she took the time to write up an answer), and math.SE is not a new site, so it's not the same situation at all. See blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/07/… for what I've seen written about seeded questions, which in my opinion doesn't apply to this situation. $\endgroup$ – Qiaochu Yuan Sep 11 '11 at 0:34
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for clarifying. I have little experience with seeded questions, mainly from meta posts and comments. My understanding was that if you know the answer but you still ask (possibly with the motive of getting reputation, I assumed this), then that is considered seeding. I agree that the "you don't care about" clause in your comment changes this view completely. $\endgroup$ – Srivatsan Sep 11 '11 at 0:39
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    $\begingroup$ @kjo: as for your last concern, it's possible that CW questions don't contribute to your acceptance rate, although I haven't tested this. $\endgroup$ – Qiaochu Yuan Sep 11 '11 at 0:58
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    $\begingroup$ @kjo: Qiaochu's right on CW not affecting your acceptance rate. $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician Sep 11 '11 at 1:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Gerry: I thought that questions that one intends to answer were OK as long as they were asked as "real questions", which arguably would preclude annotations like "I already know the answer to this, and will post it soon." Even if this is not the case, I'm certain that such annotations will elicit many downvotes from those unfamiliar with SE's position on self-answered questions, since it looks, superficially, like a ploy to pump up one's rep. But, despite these misgivings, it's worth a try. $\endgroup$ – kjo Sep 11 '11 at 13:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Qiaochu Yuan: how do I post something as CW? This is a question I've long wondered about, and searched for answers to, without success. I'm sure the answer is right under my nose, but I can't find it... $\endgroup$ – kjo Sep 11 '11 at 13:18
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    $\begingroup$ @kjo: you need to flag your question for moderator attention after posting and request that it be made CW. Only moderators can turn questions into CW. You can turn your answers into CW by checking the box at the right lower corner of the answer. By the way: I don't think you need to fear downvotes (unless you're posting nonsense) and concerning CW I don't think this is necessary. Why should you not earn reputation from people appreciating your effort? $\endgroup$ – t.b. Sep 11 '11 at 15:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Theo: thanks for the info! $\endgroup$ – kjo Sep 11 '11 at 15:25
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe a "pseudo-question" tag would be appropriate for questions answered by the OP with forethought. $\endgroup$ – Mike Jones Sep 13 '11 at 0:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Mike: oy, you're walking on dangerous grounds here. $\endgroup$ – t.b. Sep 13 '11 at 1:57
  • $\begingroup$ "oy"? "oy"? - I thought this was an English-only site. What are things coming to? Ho, ve! $\endgroup$ – Mike Jones Sep 13 '11 at 3:54

This is a worthy goal, but, as Qiaochu Yuan points out, the SE network is not the place for it. A stop-gap measure, until sufficient supporting community develops, is to send a copy of everything to the National Science Foundation, as I have been doing for more than thirty years. The address is:

National Science Foundation Division of Elementary, Secondary, and Informal Education 4201 Wilson Boulevard Arlington VA 22230

Some years ago they sent me a kudos letter regarding this. Here is the link: http://www.ipernity.com/home/101198

Then again, you might want to take advantage of, or imitate, the “Math Reference” project:

“The Math Reference project is essentially a self-paced tutorial/archive, written in English/html, that takes the reader through modern mathematics using modern techniques.” link to main page: http://www.mathreference.com/main.html

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    $\begingroup$ Your conjecture is false. The fact that they sent me an acknowledgement letter refutes it. $\endgroup$ – Mike Jones Sep 17 '11 at 20:23

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