What's the policy with questions like

which are, I think, quite clearly homework? The 2nd one is rather hopeless. This first one ended in a complete solution being spelt out.

I wish the site does not become an online support group!

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    $\begingroup$ I am surprised they are still open... It's Sunday night and the "closers" must all be watching Family Guy. $\endgroup$ – Tom Stephens Aug 2 '10 at 2:37
  • $\begingroup$ While this question seems a lot like a duplicate, it is not as it is asking about two specific questions. @Mariano: It would have been good to emphasise how this question is different from the other question Isaac linked to $\endgroup$ – Casebash Aug 2 '10 at 8:46
  • $\begingroup$ Probably math.stackexchange.com/questions/1378/… also should be closed $\endgroup$ – Grigory M Aug 2 '10 at 9:01
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    $\begingroup$ @Grigory: I actually think that question is valid $\endgroup$ – Casebash Aug 2 '10 at 9:26
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    $\begingroup$ I would strongly recommend reading meta.stackexchange.com/questions/10811/… as well as meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/106/… -- I do not think there is any consensus that it is appropriate to close questions that are real questions and are not too localized just because they might be homework. $\endgroup$ – Isaac Aug 2 '10 at 9:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Casebash if it is not a homework what is? $\endgroup$ – Grigory M Aug 2 '10 at 9:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Grigory: It asks what the question means, not how to solve it. The question can be answered without doing their homework for them. $\endgroup$ – Casebash Aug 2 '10 at 9:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Noddy Isaac already said this in his comment above from 2010 $\endgroup$ – Nick Alger Mar 17 '17 at 20:29

which are, I think, quite clearly homework.

As the asker of the first question, I will have to insist it is not homework. I'm not in school now; I am merely preparing for a class in a few weeks. It was a homework questions two years ago, but it's not homework now. Of course, I could be lying to you :)

I believe you came to your "quite clearly homework" conclusion by judging the specific nature of the questions, and their seemingly trivial nature. I believe that your conclusion is invalided on those premises because:

  1. A question that is trivial to you, may not be trivial to someone else (the questions asked here seem quite complex to me)!
  2. Other specific questions (this question for example) get the community's stamp of approval.

I'll admit, your intuition is usually pretty good about picking out homework questions. But it's not completely accurate.

I wish the site does not become an online support group!

I wish it does! Not all of us here have a rock solid foundation in math (well, then again, maybe, it's just me). The help I received here was very valuable, and after asking two questions, I feel more confident in handling proofs when school starts back up. I take that to be the sign of a blossoming community.

But, it's up to the community to decide the nature of this site. And if it turns out my questions aren't welcome here, tough cookies for me!

Now onto your question of handling alleged homework questions:

I say keep'em. If you're sure it's homework, you certainly aren't obligated to give the complete solution! But guiding the asker towards a solution is a perfectly acceptable way to "answer" the question.

  • $\begingroup$ Look at meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/106/… and meta.stackexchange.com/questions/10811/…, that may clear things up a bit. Regarding the random walks questions - while it is a specific question, it has a lot of consequences and so is much more relevant to this site $\endgroup$ – Casebash Aug 3 '10 at 5:31
  • $\begingroup$ Additionally, when people say something is a homework question they mean that it is a "homework-type" question. While there can be good homework questions, there are a number of negatives often shared by homework questions and which the name is used to denote. In particular, your question was disliked by many people because 1) it was highly specific 2) it doesn't add much value to the site 3) it is "obvious" 4) if we allow it, the site could easily be flooded with a large number of similar question. $\endgroup$ – Casebash Aug 3 '10 at 8:38
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    $\begingroup$ Homework questions are also disliked because of 5) they are often asked with minimal effort on the part of the asker. The 5th doesn't seem to apply to your question, but the first 4 do. Once it has enough of the negatives people will wonder whether they should close the question. "A question that is trivial to you, may not be trivial to someone else" - this is a good point and why point 3 should not be used as the sole reason for closing a question. The random walk question is why point 1 should not be used alone. I am still undecided about whether your question belongs on the site. $\endgroup$ – Casebash Aug 3 '10 at 8:42

Please see this answer and this other answer on this question for a more thorough discussion on asking/answering potential homework.

I did not vote to close the vector space question as, in its current form, it is a real question (the 4 existing close votes are all "not a real question"). As to the binomial question, the question itself says

So I need some hints.

  1. What technique would you use to prove this (e.g. induction, direct, counter example)
  2. Are there any tricks to the proof? I've seen some crazy stuff pulled out of nowhere when it comes to proofs...

I'd read that as reasonably asking for hints rather than asking someone to do their homework for them.

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    $\begingroup$ But those two points can be attached to any homework problem whatsoever verbatim. In fact, you could pose any mathematical problem and attach those two points... $\endgroup$ – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez Aug 2 '10 at 4:55
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    $\begingroup$ Asking for hints is different than asking for a complete solution. $\endgroup$ – Isaac Aug 2 '10 at 5:43

I won't rehash what I think about homework questions in general, as that has been covered sufficiently by other meta questions.

Regarding the first question, rove (a + b)^n >= a^n + b^n, I think it was closed prematurely. It is certainly a common homework question, but the asker claimed to have already done some work on the problem, and was not even asking for a complete solution, just some hints. I think the correct response is to provide the hints requested and ask Matt to share some of the progress that he had made. Then, a correct solution can be reached. This is essentially what anosov_diffeomorphism did in the accepted answer. I can't see the timestamps (everything just reads 'yesterday'), but assuming anosov did not add the full solution until after Matt got his answer, I see nothing wrong with what happened, and would not have closed the question. But since the question has already been answered completely, I see little merit in reopening it either.

The are degree 2 polynomials a vector space question is more sketchy in my opinion, since no background or context was given, and the question is not amenable to hinting at the correct answer without giving it away completely. Indeed, the question is 'small' enough in that sense that I don't really know what could have been done here besides convincing the asker to add a line that says 'by the way, this is not homework.' Even so, I disagree with the close reason of 'not a real question.' I might have voted to close as too localized absent any feedback from the asker.

  • $\begingroup$ I had a go at editing the degree two polynomial question to make it something people may find more acceptable. $\endgroup$ – Casebash Aug 3 '10 at 8:22

I agree, both should of been closed or at least full solutions not been provided. I hoped my comment on the first would have sufficed but shortly after I posted it, two people answered the question. On the first, I think the combination of confusion and eagerness to help put the question in its current state.

I have voted to close both. The VS one needs only one more vote.

  • $\begingroup$ Here is the issue, and maybe it is a stupid one. I want to close the vector space question, but none of the standard reasons actually fit. It is certainly a real question; just not a particularly great one. $\endgroup$ – Qiaochu Yuan Aug 2 '10 at 6:50
  • $\begingroup$ I added the fifth vote as "too narrow", definition which can be stretched to "answer needed for homework". But Yuan (or Qiaochu? not sure which is the name) is right: we should ask for another reason for closure to be added. As for quick answerers, they are a byproduct of the badge system, I fear. $\endgroup$ – mau Aug 2 '10 at 8:39
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    $\begingroup$ @Quiaochu: Too localised is the right thing to use $\endgroup$ – Casebash Aug 2 '10 at 8:42

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