There are several discussions on here about how to handle homework but I haven't seen any threads that address this specific question. If someone feels that it would be more appropriate to merge this question with another thread please feel free to do so.

My question is related to this post where the user asks someone to check the answer that they got. My problem with this question is that the user appears to know how to do the problem and they just want someone to check their work. For some kinds of questions this could be okay but for problems that are fairly computational I am wondering if this is the right place to be asking them.

I would like to know how the community feels about this and how issues like this should be handled before I comment on the question. Are questions of this nature appropriate for this site?


1 Answer 1


As the title indicates, verification and computation requests are not limited to homework. What I think would be more useful and more widely applicable than focusing on how to police homework, is to add tags such as (and these are examples, not necessarily finalized proposals):

-- [numerical-request] or [programming-request] for questions that can only be fully answered in ways that involve numerical computation or computer programming

-- tag(s) to indicate [numerically-specific] questions (e.g., "find the perpendicular bisector of the segment with endpoints (1,2) and (5,4)", versus requests for general methods such as "how to find the perpendicular bisector of a line segment in coordinates"). This specificity is certainly a feature of many homework problems, but not all homework problems will be labelled as [homework], and many non-homework problems are of the same form. In extreme cases questions will be closed as "too localized" but this seems to happen rarely and until we have specificity as a rating dimension, a tag would carry a lot of relevant information.

Please note that the much linked "Death Of Meta-Tags" (non)answer from StackOverflow is very far from addressing the need for these and other tags that are not fields of mathematics. If anyone here wants to re-introduce that material, please start a separate thread rather than assuming that SO discussions decide how math.SE users should operate the math site.

Generally, although [homework] might be a useful tag when the information is provided, it is not a useful category for thinking about the development of the site. I see no reason to single out homework for special consideration -- typical suggestions are of policing methods, such as limitation of answers, pressure to reveal the fact of it being homework, censure or suspension of users who post a lot of presumed homework questions. There is no fundamental difference between homework, job-work, doctoral work ("how do I approach this problem that arose in my thesis"), or other kinds of [work] that can be posed to the math.SE oracle, and artificially singling out homework is not a principled solution. If homework postings have aspects that are considered undesirable, such as being numerically specific or involving tedious computation, those features can be labelled directly without ever considering the [*-work] status of the posting.

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    $\begingroup$ A reason people don't want to give full answers to homework questions that you didn't touch on is that many don't want to subvert the learning process by doing someone else's work for them when that work was specifically assigned with the expectation that they would learn something by doing it. Of course, that reasoning can also apply to other types of problems, but homework is probably the biggest category of problems like this. $\endgroup$
    – Larry Wang
    Commented Oct 5, 2010 at 8:45
  • $\begingroup$ It was touched on with the words "there is no fundamental difference...". Subversion of the learning process, or of any number of other possibly worthy processes, can happen to the same or larger extent in many of the questions that are not homework, and this more general category is probably bigger than that of homework postings. $\endgroup$
    – T..
    Commented Oct 5, 2010 at 17:22
  • $\begingroup$ That may be true as well. As far as I'm concerned, I see it as an unavoidable consequence of an effective question-and-answer site. $\endgroup$
    – Larry Wang
    Commented Oct 6, 2010 at 2:48
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    $\begingroup$ Disagree with the statement that "there is no fundamental difference between homework and other questions". Homework questions usually are fairly easy and even a slightly competent person familiar with the subject can answer them/know where to find a solution (even for the harder ones). Knowing that a solution exists/it is homework/what the source of the problem is, makes a big difference in the time one is willing to spend in answering a question.There are also "ethical" issues in just handing out answer to homework, but that is too subjective and I would rather not get into that discussion. $\endgroup$
    – Aryabhata
    Commented Oct 6, 2010 at 6:26

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