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My understanding of the programming tag is informed by its tag description. In part:

For […] questions where a computer-aided solution is strongly suggested. A strong connection with a mathematical topic is needed to make programming questions on-topic. This should not be the only tag.

Yet when I use that tag to express “my maths is not very strong, please show me program code that expresses the answer”, the question got down-voted to oblivion.

Many respondents were of the opinion that, because the question stated that I am better able to assess answers that express the maths in computer code, the question doesn't belong on math.stackexchange. They presented that position as justification to down-vote the question, and to chide me for asking it.

Is the question appropriate for this site? Is the [programming] tag used appropriately on that question? How would that question (without changing what it's asking) be more appropriate here?

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    $\begingroup$ At a glance you appear to ask something a bit more along the lines of help with a programming assignment. The final part of you post reads, "I'm not confident I could translate a complex formula to code." So the Question as an exercise to learn mathematics becomes clouded by suggesting Readers post (pseudo)code instead of a reasoned mathematical argument, premised on your self-doubt about being able to understand such an Answer. $\endgroup$ – hardmath Dec 30 '18 at 16:40
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    $\begingroup$ As a programmer I'd say the first concern is to write code that gives a correct value, even at the expense of doing without the most efficient implementation. Would you accept a for-loop to evaluate the sum? It seems the obvious approach but with that not discussed, Readers will have to guess whether its omission was due to not having thought about that possibility or some other constraint not mentioned. $\endgroup$ – hardmath Dec 30 '18 at 16:45
  • $\begingroup$ “suggesting Readers post (pseudo)code instead of a reasoned mathematical argument”; the “instead of” is false, I will try to improve the question to be clear that's not implied. $\endgroup$ – bignose Dec 30 '18 at 23:40
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To respond to whether the given use of the [programming] tag is proper, let's begin with the full text of the tag excerpt:

For mathematical questions related to programming, and questions where a computer-aided solution is strongly suggested. A strong connection with a mathematical topic is needed to make programming questions on-topic. This should not be the only tag. Consider also using the tags (algorithms), (numerical-methods), or (linear-programming).

Your interest in the tag appears to be different that what was intended by the tag's creator (it has been around more than two years). Rather than requesting solutions of a math problem that allow or even prefer computer computations, you seem interested in using it to limit the use of mathematical expressions in responses.

A good way to gauge the proper use of a tag is by looking for examples of posts that "successfully" used it, i.e. Questions that were upvoted and/or got good Answers. The search engine allows us to find all Questions tagged with [programming] by putting that in the search bar (perhaps together with is:question). I did not find any examples that seemed to use the tag in your sense, i.e. don't talk math to me, but give me pseudocode.

It's possible that your Question would be substantially improved by adding more context, e.g. what programming approaches did you try and why these are unsatisfactory. Although such context is likely evident to you, it is easy to overlook the fact that Readers would be guessing at where you become interested in the problem and what difficulty you encountered. Better exposition of such context often helps to motivate and inform willing Readers to respond.

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  • $\begingroup$ “you seem interested in using it to limit the use of mathematical expressions in responses”; that's not what I'm saying. Rather, that mathematical expressions are not enough for me to tell whether an answer is correct. $\endgroup$ – bignose Dec 30 '18 at 23:38
  • $\begingroup$ It would be clearer what your objections to understanding the mathematical formulas are if you show an example that you've done "by hand". Describing the objection as "dividing by a negative number" led to suggestions about how this can be avoided, but actually there is no problem with dividing by a negative number if you actually do a concrete example with $b\gt 1$. $\endgroup$ – hardmath Jan 1 at 23:09
  • $\begingroup$ “your objections to understanding the mathematical formulas”, I have no such objections. What I have is a lack of such understanding, and a desire to none the less determine whether a proposed answer is correct for the question. $\endgroup$ – bignose Jan 2 at 21:17
  • $\begingroup$ @bignose: If you are interested in having your Question reopened, I made a suggestion that you actually do a concrete example with $b\gt 1$ to see how the formulas given by its two existing Answers agree. If you find a difficulty in evaluating those formulas, noting that in an edit to your Question would better help your Readers appreciate what a lack of understanding means to you. $\endgroup$ – hardmath Jan 4 at 3:48
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the suggestion. I'll abandon that question, though I am still interested in the discussion here about the reasons for down-voting it. $\endgroup$ – bignose Jan 5 at 6:17

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