Recently, a question was asked. In an answer, it was explained that the question was a problem from the most recent Mathematics Magazine Problems section, and that the answerer was in fact the author of the problem.

[I did look at MM's June issue, and there the problem is:]

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It's certainly not our responsibility to read journals and make sure that problems asked here are not problems in these journals. But it's also reasonable that, if someone points out that a question is from a journal, we treat it differently (whatever this difference may be).

Is it our intent to allow these questions here?

  • $\begingroup$ Isn't this just a subcase of the «homework issue»? $\endgroup$ Aug 25, 2012 at 23:46
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    $\begingroup$ I think it's related, but I don't think they're the same at all. Homework does not have any public recognition, and doesn't have wide appeal, applicability, or readership. And homework is about learning the material. Journal questions are not about learning or mastering material. $\endgroup$
    – davidlowryduda Mod
    Aug 25, 2012 at 23:49
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    $\begingroup$ Also somewhat related to Contest questions on math.SE and the Project Euler questions thread. $\endgroup$
    – t.b.
    Aug 26, 2012 at 0:10
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    $\begingroup$ @mixedmath Problems posed in journals (or elsewhere) certainly can be very helpful when learning or mastering material, esp. journals focused on pedagogy, e.g. the Monthly. The same can be said even at higher levels, e.g. see R.K Guy's Unsolved problems in number theory, notes in Narkiewicz's textbook on algebraic number theory, etc. Learning doesn't cease simply because one graduates. The endless wealth of mathematical problems means that one is forever a student. $\endgroup$ Aug 27, 2012 at 16:46
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    $\begingroup$ I was wondering whether (contests) would be a reasonable tag for this question, since it is basically about a contest, but published in a journal. And maybe bumping the post will make some user who were not here two years ago aware of this. $\endgroup$ Jan 14, 2015 at 8:18
  • $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque that may be true that figuratively one is still a student; however, there is fundamental difference between homework one is required to do for a grade to have credit of learning the material and a journal question that is intended (at least partially) as recreation. $\endgroup$
    – user64742
    Nov 6, 2018 at 0:09

3 Answers 3


I honestly think that nothing special should be done about this.

I do think that people asking such questions should be explicit about the source of the problems, just as people asking questions from books and such.

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    $\begingroup$ Note that in this case OP seemed unaware that the question was a problem in a current journal issue. $\endgroup$ Aug 26, 2012 at 0:03
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    $\begingroup$ We've had analogous issues with problems posted from ongoing competitions (e.g. Project Euler), problems from take-home exams, etc. These too, can be passed along, with the original source being lost. Generally it is difficult if not impossible to ascertain whether the OP knows the source, and speculation about such is usually not constructive. $\endgroup$ Aug 26, 2012 at 18:28

If we decide to allow ongoing journal questions, I think we should at least do the following:

We should have a [journal-problem] tag, a meta-tag much like the tag, where submitters add it if the question is a journal problem.

This way, people who like to write up journal solutions won't suddenly happen across a solution to a problem they're working on (perhaps ruining their ability to submit their own answer), and answerers who don't want to give away answers to journal problems won't (I, for example, wouldn't).

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    $\begingroup$ That's a reasonable proposal. Ultimately I think it is up to each person to decide how they will reply. If someone prefers to answer the question here (vs. the journal) then they should have the right to do so. $\endgroup$ Aug 25, 2012 at 23:48
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe spoiler tags should be added to such answers? (In case we allow them ...) $\endgroup$
    – Dejan Govc
    Aug 26, 2012 at 10:08

I was the OP who proposed the question. It, and some other very natural ones, were motivated by exercise 21 (p.117) in a Munkres' Topology. After all, when learning people generally ask themselves questions that are motivated precisely by what they learn. This will always be the case and it is source of many of the questions posted in math.stackexchange. Moreover, as it was the case with my question, people reading the post will always point things out regarding the nature or status of a posted question. The community self regulates itself in a certain sense. Thus, in my humble opinion, nothing special should be done about this issue.

I think that people will generally be considerate to the newfound status of the question in a journal. Posting a solution is good, and yet, it seems likely to me that those who have found one will choose not to post it. Why? Your guess is as good as mine, but perhaps is just courtesy to those who, like themselves, after reading that the question is a problem in a journal, will care to work on it and submit a solution.

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    $\begingroup$ A solver may have good reasons for submitting a solution here, e.g. it is much easier than submitting to a journal; the solution will probably reach a larger audience here; the solution will be freely available here (vs. behind a journal paywall); it will receive quicker / more peer-review here, etc. $\endgroup$ Aug 27, 2012 at 16:32
  • $\begingroup$ All well and good. I am perfectly happy that someone will post a solution, for whatever reason they may have, and all the reasons you describe are valid. At the same time the proposer itself brought to our attention the status of the problem in the MM. That is a valid reason for some to decide not posting an answer until November. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Aug 27, 2012 at 18:06

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