Suppose a user asks a question on the main site, and he makes several mistakes in his question. Then the editing crew shows up to fix those mistakes. So far so good. If he made typos, we fix them. If the layout is messed up, we try to make it look better. But what if there are small and/or big mistakes in the content of the question? In other words:

Should we ever edit the (mathematical) content of questions?

I would say that it is not our job to fix any content whatsoever. The mistakes are part of the question, and help us understand what the user knows and what he does not know, and where he may have gone wrong. But recently I ran into a question where a mistake in the content (even though it was just a tiny mistake) was edited and fixed by another user. Would it be wrong for me to say that that mistake should not have been fixed?

In this particular case, the mistake was irrelevant to the question itself, e.g. fixing "I know 1+1=3, but do we also have $\int \frac{1}{x}=\log x + C$?" to "I know 1+1=2, but do we also have $\int \frac{1}{x}=\log x + C$?". Even then I'd say we should leave the "1+1=3" there and let others tell the user in the comments that he is wrong, so that he can learn from it.


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    $\begingroup$ I usually indicate the errors through comments, to see if it was a typo or an actual mistake. If it is a typo, it can be corrected (either by the OP or by editors). If it was a mistake, then IMHO it should be addressed (e.g., in answers) even if it is irrelevant to the rest of the question... $\endgroup$ May 19 '12 at 20:12

No, I agree that we should not correct mathematical errors by editing the question.

I also think that this is true for answers, for the most part. I would prefer that users comment to point out mathematical errors (or include the correction in an answer if the error is in the question, as Arturo commented).

Here is a related post.

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    $\begingroup$ Agreed, but you can't win. I recently pointed out a couple of borderline typos/errors in an answer, and was asked by the poster why I didn't just edit them myself instead of announcing them to everyone. Sometimes, it's a judgement call, and sometimes different people will make different judgements. $\endgroup$ May 20 '12 at 7:12
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    $\begingroup$ I disagree with Jonas (in the abstract): there are mathematical errors and there are mathematical errors. A few missing minus signs which do not matter in the grand scheme of the argument is, technically, a mathematical error. But in this case it would be much quicker and effective to treat them like a simple typo. I would say the same to TMM's example in the question: typing $1+1 = 3$ is much more likely a fat-finger mistake (easily made on mobile devices even). A truly mathematical "mistake" for which I'd agree with Jonas would be something like "I know $\pi + e$ is rational..." $\endgroup$ May 21 '12 at 7:38

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