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After having a look at the questions thus far (including my own questions) I think it is really hard to decide which answer is "correct" (many questions are opinion based or, in some cases, have contradictory answers). Also, I think a lot of the questions could be tagged with "big-list" (as on MathOverflow).

I fear that things might get out of control here if there are no guidelines.

At what point should someone accept an answer?

Should one comment on questions to note when they are not specific enough?

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  • $\begingroup$ I think I should point out that it is okay to mark an answer as accepted after a day or two, even if you expect good answers in the future. There is a 'populist' gold badge for people who post very good answers after another answer was accepted. $\endgroup$ – Brian Rushton Mar 28 '14 at 12:49
  • $\begingroup$ @BrianRushton: Actually, in which order answers were given and accepted does not matter for the populist badge. $\endgroup$ – Wrzlprmft Apr 7 '14 at 21:07
  • $\begingroup$ Also, the related FAQ question on Meta Stackoverflow. $\endgroup$ – Wrzlprmft Apr 7 '14 at 21:09
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In general you should accept an answer when there is an answer that you feel answers your question.

I would say that it is a good idea to wait a couple of minutes before accepting any one answer. You want to give people an opportunity to write their answers. If you question expects a long answer, then you might even want to wait an hour or two.

Hopefully your question is of such a nature that it is about specific issues with mathematics educators or real problems or questions that you have encountered. Good questions should aim at having definite answers. So when you get the definite answer that you were looking for, you are free to accept. Just select the answer that you as the OP feel best answers your question.

I agree that matheducators.SE will have questions where the answer to some degree will depend on opinion. In those cases, I would hesitate before I accepted an answer.

All this said: You should always accept an answer. It is important that here in beta have as many and possible of the questions with accepted answers. Otherwise it makes us look bad.

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    $\begingroup$ "wait a couple of minutes" - On the Money.SE site I frequent, I've remarked that one should wait much longer, unless, of course, a factual answer is 100% and anything better can't be expected. That encourages more participation, as many will see an already accepted answer and move on. I'll often see in the time between nite and morning, a question is asked/answered/accepted, with no time for the 1/3 of the world that was sleeping to see it. I try to take the same view with voting to close. If a question has comments asking for substantive clarification, I'd give the OP a couple hours to fix. $\endgroup$ – JoeTaxpayer Mar 15 '14 at 10:31
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    $\begingroup$ I like this answer, because it gives a guideline that is very practical. However (perhaps ironically, for an accepted answer to this particular question) I don't feel it fully engages the question. My favorite question on the site so far is this one: matheducators.stackexchange.com/questions/1/… , in which there are numerous helpful, thoughtful answers already posted, and none of them is, or even could be, a complete answer. If I were the OP I would find it very difficult to choose one to elevate over the others. $\endgroup$ – benblumsmith Mar 15 '14 at 12:46
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeTaxpayer: Maybe you could add an answer to this meta question with a full answer? Since we are in infancy we need to figure how we want to do things. I have just added my opinion on this matter (which doesn't seem to far from your opinion). I am saying that the OP should accept the answer when he believes that (s)he has the answer that (s)he was looking for. For some more open-ended questions, you might wait loner. As I said I would hesitate accepting answers in certain situations. But I think we should still push for having a high acceptance rate on the site. $\endgroup$ – Thomas Mar 15 '14 at 13:14
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On another SE site, I answer far more than I ask. There are some questions in personal finance that have no "exact" right/wrong as it will often depend on one's experience, level of risk, etc. When it comes time to accept, I suggest two things,

(a) 24 hours. Even the Personal finance Stack is world wide, US heavy, but people from all over. Math is universal, and hopefully we'll have people from literally all over the world participating. If you accept an answer too fast, you discourage others from offering their own answer. Some might, but in general, fewer new answers come in after 'accept.' I'd not assume that people are on throughout the day, but just a small window of time, a bit in their evening.

(b) Your concern was which to accept. The votes should help a bit as it tells you what others thought. With multiple answers that are close, you just need to read them over a few times and ask yourself which is more likely to help a reader in the future. Keep in mind, those with great answers that weren't the picked accepted answer won't be offended.

(c) I asked on PF.SE.meta, regarding downvotes. The parent system doesn't force a reason (e.g. 'incorrect facts'/'doesn't address question', etc), nor can each group from what I understand. I find it kind to tell people why they got a DV. My first question was getting close votes as I messed it up, but comments alerted me to fix it. A downvote can be flipped after OP edits, so in my opinion, a DV should have a reason to help guide the writer to improve. As educators, we should all be happy to help each other improve the dialog on the board.

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I'd like to argue that the accept feature should be disabled on MathEducators. Questions about teaching mathematics to human beings don't have, will never have, unambiguous 'right answers'. The idea of accepted answers was designed for the StackExchange forums dealing with programming, math, etc, where there are right answers.

And a question that has an accepted answer will discourage people, who may be much more knowledgeable/experienced, from adding their own answer.

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  • $\begingroup$ At some point you are right and that was why I also asked the question here. However, I normally like to read more than one answer to get the full picture. If I accept an answer, the highest votes answer will be the second one everybody could read and then those who are really interested in the topic can read both (or even more). I don't think that this is discouraging people from answering at all. $\endgroup$ – Markus Klein Mar 26 '14 at 17:39
  • $\begingroup$ I feel the highest votes answer should be the top. Why should the questioner know better than the whole community? $\endgroup$ – Marius Kempe Mar 26 '14 at 17:46
  • $\begingroup$ I disagree; there are quite a few questions that have very specific correct answers, especially historical questions. $\endgroup$ – Brian Rushton Mar 26 '14 at 17:47
  • $\begingroup$ Could you give an example on the site? $\endgroup$ – Marius Kempe Mar 26 '14 at 17:49
  • $\begingroup$ ...because I looked myself and couldn't find any questions with accepted answers that I would call historical and factual. $\endgroup$ – Marius Kempe Mar 27 '14 at 22:28
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    $\begingroup$ I would consider Benjamin Dickman's answer to my question matheducators.stackexchange.com/q/29/77 to be worthy of "being accepted." $\endgroup$ – Joel Reyes Noche Apr 3 '14 at 13:44

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