64

My view has always been that programming questions are very much borderline. Here is the border, as I see it. Your question is about the mathematics of the algorithm. This could be about a specific implementation, but the question has to be mathematical. That question is on-topic here. Your question is about the implementation of your code. It is about the ...


55

Yes. 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 ...


54

The charter of MSE is to welcome all types of mathematical questions. In particular, we do not discriminate based on the "level" of the question. But we do frown upon poorly posed questions - whatever the level. Please provide as much context as possible when posing your question. Tell us something about what fields of math that you know (and/or put this ...


54

Yes, this is a Q&A site for mathematics at all levels. However, all questions should be asked well, regardless of how "elementary" or "advanced" the content of the question may be. In particular, a math question at any level which follows the excellent guide How to ask a good question? should be warmly welcomed here.


50

This is acceptable if you can make your question reasonably self-contained. That is, for example: Your actual question could be how to calculate an integral, and this integral should be included in the post. Your context could be that this integral shows up in a paper your are studying and you link to the paper for further context and mention the ...


49

Yes, however when asking a basic question it is even more important to provide context, showing your work so far and what you have to work with/know. Example: Solve this equation for me: $3x +1 = 2x-2$. This question contain no context, does not show any effort, and does not provide any context to the readers what you already know, thus is a bad posed ...


49

I believe that questions asking for help in understanding a textbook argument are always on-topic, as long as reasonable context is provided. If the reason for the misunderstanding turns out to be that the textbook is in error, whether a minor typo or something more substantive, that is a valid answer. It doesn't make the question off-topic.


48

Intuition is extremely important in mathematics and not always explicitly taught in math courses. As a working mathematician, I need "hard" knowledge to prove and define things in detail, but "soft" knowledge is an indispensable guide that steers my work. We would lose much if we were to ban intuitive questions here. It's not easy to apply the same standards ...


45

Just a few comments on this. Asking questions about mathematics is precisely the purpose of this site. It does not matter whether the questions come from the book you are studying or from elsewhere. What does matter is that you put an effort into your question and that you do not ask too many questions at once. I definitely prefer when the OP mentions the ...


43

How can I choose the preferred website to put my questions? I once read something along the lines "If you have to ask whether to ask on MO or math.se, likely you should ask it on math.se." I think this is a good rule of thumb. What if someone writes his or her question down on the not preferable website? If you post on MO and they think it is ...


42

I think most of the heavy users of the site would be very happy to see questions asked out of pure idle curiosity: pure idle curiosity is one of the nobler motives in mathematical research, so far as I am concerned. It sure beats the hell out of "I was assigned this question so I'll try to get it answered online." I can see that you are mostly questioning ...


42

This is an interesting idea. I definitely see the appeal of getting learners of mathematics on this site. Used properly, Math.SE can be an incredibly effective resource for learning mathematics. There is no rule preventing your posing a question and requiring your students to answer this question. There are a few odd interactions that may occur, though. I ...


41

In my opinion, this kind of question is fine. I ask fellow mathematicians this kind of thing all the time and, when the answer is positive, it's very useful. Questioners should understand, though, that if the true answer is "no" then the question will probably never be answered.


35

There is no lower bound on how "dumb" a question can be here. We only ask that you've put some honest effort into it (e.g. that you don't ask a question about a homework problem you don't understand when you haven't even looked up the words in it yet).


35

Yes. The site is for all levels. Do note that [set-theory] has [elementary-set-theory] and [number-theory] has [elementary-number-theory], both for undergrad level questions. Of course that some questions in undergrad level might be suitable for the "advanced" tags as well.


35

I believe that such "answers" should not simply be flagged as "not an answer" because they are trying to bring a potentially bad situation our attention (in essence, they are much closer to being flags than simple comments). If users/reviewers can find information that would back-up claims made in such answers, flagging the question for specific moderator ...


33

1) A homework problem (with book citation) Excellent. This provides part of the context, namely where the problem came from. Sadly, many other people don't even bother to state this, and is one possible factor for closure. 2) The inquirer's workings towards an (ultimately incorrect) final answer Great. As long as it is readable, it is perfect. 3) The ...


32

Yes. $ $


29

"Is this original?" is not a good mathematical question on its own. The answers to that are "Yes" and "No" and neither one of them furthers anyone's mathematical knowledge. That said, I don't think this is really what an genuine asker wants to know anyways. Perhaps, one of the following is true: You touched upon an instance of some unfamiliar, but ...


28

Given the current SE design, there is no optimal way to do this. Asking a new question only to clarify answer(s) of an old one creates an exact duplicate. Too many duplicates add great complexity to the site, adding extra work to classification (tagging, abstract dups), they complicate navigation of search results, etc. However, the alternative, bumping an ...


28

This looks perfectly suitable to me. A good rule of thumb is that if the underlying question is fundamentally mathematical, and answering would not require any specific non-mathematical knowledge, then the question is suitable here.


27

I would like to recommend that people use the Mathematics Teaching Community site. It was developed by my colleague Sybilla Beckmann, with the assistance of my PhD student Jacob Hicks. I think it is a very nice site, with one notable flaw: only a tiny percentage of the mathematics teaching community knows about it, so only a tiny percentage is active there....


27

Absolutely. Linking back to the old answer (not just the question; the URL for the answer itself can be obtained by clicking the share tool between the answer and the answerer's profile name) provides context, and helps those who will explain it. You should also quote the relevant section of the old answer, and describe which parts of it don't make sense, ...


26

If it is at all possible you should make the question self-contained, that is you should reproduce the relevant content here (mentioning the source, and linking it for further context). There may be cases where this is not possible, but often they will result in too broad or otherwise unsuitable questions.


26

It seems to me that inevitably it is not possible to qualitatively distinguish confusions/questions "typical to laypeople" from many of the questions/confusions arising among 20-year-olds taking undergrad math. The latter are identifiable not by some innate qualities so much as by the narrowness of range and by specificity. If anything, "low-level" questions ...


25

Sure, but try to keep your questions focused. If a reasonable answer to your question would consist of a book, you're asking for too much. If a reasonable answer to your question would consist of a Wikipedia article, you should at least read the Wikipedia article first and ask questions about whatever's unclear in it.


25

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25

It really depends on the situation. Sometimes asking "what have you tried?" is indeed useless. However, a lot of time it does give us some useful information. By showing what the questioner has tried. One get a grip on the questioner's level of mathematical sophistication. One can taylor make an answer which the questioner can understand. Another very ...


25

History of Mathematics was and is on-topic on this site, and I think it should continue to be on-topic. For an elaboration on why I think so see my other answer in this thread. The help center has it right, in my opinion, when it says: There are certain subjects that, while still on-topic here, might be better addressed by one of our sister sites: ....


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