Can people ask MSE for help in regards to refining or aiding them in solving and creating questions that could potentially be used in mathematical challenges or even Olympiads?

My last posted question Trying to find an identity for $\arctan(ab)$ in terms of any other trigonometric function was about this and although I ended up discarding the question in hand and used a different question in the final set I submitted (was not disclosed because I didn't want to (although at the beginning, it was at the behest of UKMT, later I double-checked and turned out that wasn't the case at all and I spoke to the wrong person)), I still feel unsure.

The only reason this question is even being posted is because some of my questions (from time to time) will be about this and I don't want to land in any further trouble given that I am already on a question ban for poor-quality questions.

Any answers or advice that the Mathematics Meta community has?

Edit 1: I am a current UKMT volunteer doing problem-setting (for those that need extra context).

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ You expect to get an Olympiad to use a problem that you couldn't solve without outside help? Sounds dubious to me. In any event, my advice is to read math.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/9959/… and take the advice there to heart. $\endgroup$ Feb 24 at 13:31
  • $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson, well, I asked them whether asking for help is against their guidelines and the answer was a resounding no. $\endgroup$ Feb 24 at 13:41
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know who you mean by "them", but I doubt "they" would encourage you to ask a question that is dealt with at length at the link I posted. Anyway, you asked for advice, and I gave it, and instead of thanking me you have chosen to argue with me. It has been nice knowing you. $\endgroup$ Feb 24 at 13:45
  • $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson, by them, I meant UKMT. And as for the advice you have given me, that's not what I am looking for because, well, it is very vague (I only looked at the sections needed to answer my question). $\endgroup$ Feb 24 at 13:50

1 Answer 1


There is no rule either way. Of course, the question needs to abide by all the site's quality standards, just as any other question must.

I find it hard to predict how such questions will be received. I expect it will depend a lot on the specific details of the question. I suspect it might be challenging to write a good question that is not too open-ended / too broad to be a good fit here, and that other people find interesting and valuable. You are basically asking volunteers here to answer a question that probably only you will ever have. It is unlikely anyone else will have the same same question as you. So it not clear how well this aligns with the mission of building an archive of knowledge that will be useful to others. That might make it challenging to construct questions of this sort that will be well-received. But who knows. Perhaps it will go well. The only way to know is to try it.

  • $\begingroup$ OK. My only concern is that should that question end up in an Olympiad or a mathematical challenge, haven't I, in effect, helped students cheat that question? $\endgroup$ Feb 25 at 12:15
  • $\begingroup$ Also, see the link in my post - that's the example that answers the second paragraph of your answer. $\endgroup$ Feb 25 at 12:16

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .