As I'm starting to study mathematics and I feel like to ask a lot of questions, but I'm aware that I could answer part of them alone instead of just asking.

Sometimes I can answer the question a few minutes after making the question on SE and after that I usually wish to erase it. Last time I discovered it's better to leave it there, these guys provided me with useful tips that I wouldn't discover alone only by reading the book I'm reading.

How should I proceed with such questions?

EDIT: I forgot to mention: I speculate they may be dumb to the community members, but they're not so easy to me.

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    $\begingroup$ If you're happy with the results you've been getting, and if no one is complaining about what you've been doing, then I'd say, carry on doing what you're doing. $\endgroup$ Aug 10, 2012 at 23:25
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    $\begingroup$ Here's the thing: if you've shown in the body of your question that you've made an effort to answer your question on your own, and you are just asking for a little more pushing, then there is no need to worry about your question being "stupid". $\endgroup$ Aug 11, 2012 at 0:33
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    $\begingroup$ Probably related: Is it appropriate to ask “dumb” questions. $\endgroup$ Aug 11, 2012 at 3:57
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    $\begingroup$ If you didn't ask stupid questions, how could I give stupid answers? :) $\endgroup$
    – user223391
    Aug 29, 2015 at 16:10

6 Answers 6



I ask a lot of stupid questions and I often feel stupid at the time. I sometimes feel embarrassed at having asked after I learned what to do.

Think about it this way though:

Feeling stupid is an emotion.

Studies show we remember things better, if we have an associated emotion with the thing. Therefore it is a good idea to attach some emotions to what you are trying to learn and remember.

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    $\begingroup$ This reminded me a chat I had with a friend some days ago, he was telling me about associative learning. $\endgroup$
    – Red Banana
    Aug 12, 2012 at 0:07
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    $\begingroup$ Does the operation of "associative learning" form a group? (We can add "associative forgetting", i.e., repressing as inverses) $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Aug 12, 2012 at 6:39
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila: It should at least be a monoid, because there's the neutral element of learning nothing. However if you add "associative forgetting" you'll get a partial operation because you can't forget something which you didn't learn before (unless you define that as not changing your knowledge, but then forgetting something isn't invertible because forgetting something and then learning it is not be equivalent to learning nothing: if you didn't know it before, you've now learned it). $\endgroup$
    – celtschk
    Aug 13, 2012 at 13:20
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila When I read for the first time, I read it without thinking about mathematics. First I thought of a group: Several people learning something. Then when I read about the associative forgetting, I imagined a lot of people in a room making some effort to forget something, the leader of them screamed: WE'RE HERE TOGETHER TO FORGET THIS TODAY! I don't know what's wrong with me but... This is REAL funny. Haha $\endgroup$
    – Red Banana
    Aug 14, 2012 at 5:30
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    $\begingroup$ This is COMPLEX funny! $\endgroup$
    – Red Banana
    Aug 14, 2012 at 5:31

Questions are the beginning of wisdom. As a teacher, I prefer that people ask stupid questions rather than not, because it assures me they've got the basics and after all, they're there to learn, not to already know.


I think it's absolutely fine to post "stupid questions", and to post as many as you feel is necessary; provided that:

  1. You push yourself to improve the quality of questions you do post, by working hard to try and answer more and more on your own.

  2. You give back to the community by answering questions that are like the "stupid" ones you used to ask.


I think you just did.

But going forward: if you have tried a reasonable amount of thought and googling to the question without success then the question has at least one interesting feature; to wit, a moderately intelligent person applied a reasonable amount of thought and googling to the problem without success.

The "interesting feature" might simply be that it's difficult to google. If so, asking the question here (and having it answered) makes it easier to google. That's a step forward right there.

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    $\begingroup$ In the interest of learning how to do mathematics it is important that you do struggle with answering the question yourself before looking for a solution online. $\endgroup$
    – john w.
    Aug 15, 2012 at 18:10

The only stupid kind of a question is one that never made a shred of sense to begin with.

You're not really asking about stupid questions as much as about simple ones. And that is something highly subjective. You fear that the subject - difficult for you - will be insultingly simple to someone here. But the opposite can be true for a question someone else asked and you answered.

Everyone had to learn each subject they know at some point - which wasn't neccessarily easy, even if they later assimilated that knowledge well enough to take it for granted.


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Source here.

  • $\begingroup$ the link in the source is broken $\endgroup$
    – Ooker
    Sep 15, 2021 at 8:56

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