87

There are occasions when the use of l'Hopital is circular. E.g., when using l'H on $$\lim_{x\to0}{\sin x\over x}$$ you have to differentiate $\sin x$, but to differentiate $\sin x$, you have to evaluate $\lim_{x\to0}{\sin x\over x}$.


75

In a word, the answer is 'no.' As long as you are asking thoughtful questions that are coming from a real desire to learn (and have not already been asked), you will find that people are pleased to answer. Remember that the questions that you ask, and their answers, stick around for years to come and will benefit others on down the line.


59

(My own two cents.) Your post is entitled: I feel mathematically inadequate for this site. What level are the majority of questions? The notions of "(in)adequate for this site" and "level of the majority of questions" need not hold the relation that you suspect. Your first sentence in the body of the post is: I visit this site a lot (even though I ...


57

You should flag for moderator attention and explain what's up. Mods can check the history and see even those things which have been deleted. You should absolutely not engage with that user in any other way. Let moderators handle exceptional incidents like this. Just flag, walk away, and continue to Be Nice on your own.


49

(This was going to be a comment on Carl Mummert's answer, but it started getting too long.) A long time ago I made the same decision as Carl to back off from giving quick answers to relatively easy questions. I haven't always kept to it, and there are certain tags (e.g., linear-programming) that often go ignored but that I do know something about and so ...


49

As Jin describes it in the original Design Ideas for Mathematics Site post, it's a Penrose triangle made of cubes, with the corner cubes removed: The absence of the corner cubes makes the "impossible object" illusion somewhat less striking (in fact, I'm not even 100% sure that it's still impossible to construct out of actual cubes), but if you look closely, ...


45

Has anyone entertained the possibility that some folks on this site just like to solve problems, and those posed in M.SE are an easy source of them? BTW I am one of those strange folks (> 1100 answers, 8 questions, not as extreme as those you listed, but still...) and that's one reason how I explain it. Another reason is that I am not a student or am ...


45

I have to disagree with you that the motivation for posting answers after others have done so is related to reputation hunt. I am a slow typer and a perfectionist ( others would say a nitpicker!), so that it takes me a long time to compose my answers since I do a lot of checking and try to write a well-formulated answer, of which I won't be ashamed in ...


43

math.SE can be a useful learning environment on the answerer side, but that isn't what it's optimized for. It's optimized for answering people's questions. If all you want to do is learn, then look at questions and don't look at their answers.


41

Personally, I'm against any calculus technique that can be applied without (much) thinking. These days calculus (in North America, at least) is taught in a way that people can get high grades without having the slightest idea of what a derivative or an integral is. In most classes I teach I ask what an integral is, and very rarely do I get satisfactory ...


39

The second of your theories is a decent explanation, I would class myself in there. I have access to a decent mathematical library and the internet, so 95% I can find what I need quite quickly on my own. To be honest, I think many questions here can be answered by a simple google search, but I understand how some people will want the ability to ask the ...


33

First, I want to praise you for asking a good question here! Alas, teachers and professors generally only encourage students to ask "clarification questions," and don't otherwise instruct students how to ask good questions. (Of course every teacher answers questions... a different matter.) There are even cultures in which asking any questions is ...


32

I considered the distribution of (question)-(1st answer) time interval among the questions that received at least one answer. There are about 186600 of such questions in the SEDE database, approximately 87% of all questions. (Thus, multiplying the percentages below by 0.87 will give the percentage among all existing questions.) Executive summary of results: ...


32

The standard reference for this is "Good Subjective, Bad Subjective". Note that when we compare the two description you quoted there remains a gap. On the one end of the spectrum there are those questions whose answers "[can] be objectively evaluated as correct or incorrect," these are not soft questions. On the other end of the spectrum there are those ...


28

Feel my lightning! ${}{}{}{}{}$


27

Kyle, use this forum to learn. As you gain expertise, you will be able to answer questions too. Good questions are the grist that makes this forum go.


25

I think there is a valid point in the question. I am going to make a voluntary effort not to answer "straightforward" (in my opinion) questions for at least a few hours after they are posted. At some point, an editor has enough rep to ignore the "low hanging fruit".


25

There will never be a time when you don't feel mathematically inadequate, either here or in general, because the essence of mathematics is figuring things out that you don't know yet. Very few of the answers I've written are to questions I knew that I could answer right away. Those for which that is true tend to be the answers I am least proud of. I look up ...


25

From a purely practical point of view: how you answer an older question might be different than how you answer a new question. Is frowned upon to do so? There's nothing frowned upon. The only answers people frown upon here are when people post complete solutions to homework problems where there is no apparent effort in the question to solve the problem. ...


23

In some circumstances questions like "How do I do X without Y" are genuinely intellectual exercises in working without powertools, but in other circumstances they seem more like "I have an aversion to thinking about Y so let's just do it another way." My impression is that the first group is by far the bigger group in general, but for l'Hopital's rule ...


22

Let me offer a possibility. Let us take for granted the supposition that these people who take time to write careful, well-written answers, would also exert some amount of effort in making sure they will write careful well-written questions. The thing is, it often happens that in the course of trying to write a good question, suitable for public display, ...


21

First off, I don't think these users are "strange". Perhaps their motives for being on Math.SE are different from yours or those of the majority, but such does not justify this qualification. One of the most logical reasons for the observed behaviour is that these proficient contributors' questions, when they arise, will usually supersede the established ...


21

Sometimes how attractive a question is is also a matter of luck, of who is connected at the time you ask. But in general here are a few tips: Avoid asking ten questions in one (I've seen that) Try to emphasize the point - even if the context requires some terminology and perhaps an unavoidable long text, you can always give a clear and short introduction ...


19

None of these are meant to directly relate to your own questions, but they're things I think about both when asking and answering questions online (although I can always do better). Understand the social contract This is a tricky one to express clearly, partially because it depends a lot on where you're asking the question. In some places, like this site, ...


18

The fact that people posted answers should not deter you from writing your own answers. Even if you don't post them at the end. The process of writing an answer can teach you a lot about how much you understand something, and even more so if you write something which is intended as an answer. If you wrote an answer to a question and you feel that you did a ...


17

You shouldn't take single downvotes too serious. If you receive many more downvotes than upvotes, something is probably wrong with your question, but I had many questions starting with $1$ or several downvotes which were upvoted some time later. Single downvotes need not be justified, but you will have to live with them on this site. Sometimes, even the ...


15

The existing answers show why such questions should be closed. They are a random collection of personally preferred practices, opinions and anecdotes of little to no value, taken from a self-selected sample that is not representative of anything. "I know a guy who..." This is what such questions generate: enjoyable exchange of personal stories / ...


15

This is a bit of a meta answer, but let me explain a bit of why a course might not cover l'Hôpital's rule. When I teach calculus I've skipped l'Hôpital for two reasons. First, understanding when using it is and isn't circular is much more difficult than anything else covered in a Calc 1 class. Gerry gave a great example of a subtle circularity, but ...


14

Don't upvote anything that is wrong. In the situation that you are describing, better give an encouraging comment pointing out the mistake. When the answer is corrected, you still can upvote.


13

I had the infinite ratio for a long time -- about 250 answers before my first question. This is a combination of two reasons which have already been suggested. I think most of my questions are a better fit for MO than math.SE. I tend to put a question on MO if I think that it needs an expert in the relevant field of math; I put a question here if I suspect ...


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