# Kindness for the question askers

I know this issue was posted here before. In its previous incarnation, this question pointed out that numerous comments instead of answers, detailing the problems with a question, and short, abrupt answers, were not respectful of the question-asker.

I am looking now at this question: Is every number a multiple of one?

I'm guessing it comes from a parent wishing to help their child. The user just signed up today, has just the one stack exchange account, and has asked just the one question. Her question is voted down, the first answer gives no explanation, just a 'yes'. The second answer is technical, and complains that the question is circular. This second answer may eventually disappear, but meanwhile the parent who came in search of understanding is being dealt with shabbily.

I haven't asked a question yet, have I? I guess my question would be How can we best support parents trying to help their children learn math? (But really, I'm also asking: How do we remember that different people come to math from very different levels of understanding?)

• I agree with the general sentiment. However, the issue I see for the specific question is that it is rather a mathematical question than a question in mathematucs education. In principle, the question should have been asked on math.SE. – quid Oct 26 '14 at 21:34
• When someone asks about a 4th grade test question, they're trying to explain it to a kid most likely. It felt right for this site to me. Is there something we could add to the wording to make it fit a bit better? – Sue VanHattum Oct 27 '14 at 2:49
• I think exactly what you say [ie, how can I explain this in a good way to a child] should be added to the question (and be also addressed in the answers). There is a risk in interpreting too much, but it can also be useful. At least we should be clear which interpretation of a question we take and document this. – quid Oct 27 '14 at 7:11
• I thought I followed my yes with an explanation. Anyway, yes kindness would be nice. But it's hard to forgive silence. The OP might be, or have meant, many things. Without the OP participating the question becomes: is there anything here worthy of being on Mathematics Educators? I tried to frame my answer around the idea that this was about education not simply mathematics. – candied_orange Oct 29 '14 at 15:06
• @CandiedOrange the answer referred to in OP is meanwhile deleted. It said "yes, every integer is a multiple of 1" and just this. – quid Oct 30 '14 at 0:13
• I strongly agree with the OP. As a site on mathematics education, this forum should respectfully engage the issues of mathematics education. An answer could have been respectful and still addressed the question in a profound way. For example, how does one communicate to someone WHY every number is a multiple of one in an effective way!!! In every naive mathematics question there is a kernel of a question about mathematics education. The etiquette of the site, IMHO, should be to find that kernel and address it. – Jon Bannon Nov 6 '14 at 17:18
• (cont.) I understand, however, the desire to prevent this site from becoming a homework answer forum. The answers can be crafted in a way that discourage that direction. – Jon Bannon Nov 6 '14 at 17:20
• I think it is very kind of you to have this reaction. There is a problem in sites like SE (Wikipedia is very similar) in that the reactions can be very impersonal (templated warnings, impersonal comments on policy). And this is not appropriate for "civilians" wandering into the battlefield for the first time. That doesn't mean you have to take the question. But some personal explanation should be made. ("Thanks for asking. We don't actually handle that question here. MSE does, link. But for what it's worth, "yes", you have the right idea.") – guest Dec 17 '18 at 18:35

When a new user ask a first question, I believe more leniency should be given since they may not know how to

1. use $\LaTeX$

That is, voting to close and down voting should wait a few hours for the new member to respond to the comments for clarification and to give them time to rephrase the question asking for some guidance or hints so it will be received better.

It is easy enough to tell who is brand new since everyone gets an association bonus of 100 that has another SX account with at least 200 rep. As a new user to a site, it would be verify disheartening to ask, in your eyes, an innocent question and have the members jump all over you and then negative vote after vote, -1, -2, vote close (1), ... (4)

Instead, the new member should be informed the proper way to ask a question or told where the question's informations is unclear. That way the new user can make the corrections necessary.

• Could the few hours' wait before voting to put on hold be built in to the site? It might also force those voting to pause, and hopefully think, before doing so. – timtfj Dec 16 '18 at 18:59

I'd also like to mention that a user can be newer than you think—just after joining MSE I somehow managed to ask a question that got a lot of upvotes (something like 25 on the first day IIRC) so I ended up with a reputation score that really didn't reflect how little experience I had on the site. So I looked like a user who should know his way around by now but still hadn't learnt how to behave properly, rather than someone who'd only arrived a couple of days before.

And there are all kinds of small semi-trchnical issues someone might face: for example I'm posting this from my phone, and I'm not sure that opening a new tab to consult Help wouldn't lose what I've typed since the browser is prone to reloading pages it shouldn't need to.

I suppose this all boils down to not making assumptions about the user.

• I don't think "learning to use LATEX (or wikicode or UBB or similar) is a reasonable expectation for new users of a general Internet site. It's a very blind propellerhead thinking to assume everyone needs to do that. Heck...lots of people in deep, deep academics outside of physics and math never, ever, learn LATEX. – guest Dec 17 '18 at 19:04

Disclosure - I didn't vote on the question, but did DV what I felt was one bad answer.

I responded to a comment by editing the question for formatting, nothing more.

The question is about to be closed -

This question is off-topic because it is a mathematical question as contrasted with a question about mathematics education. For a Stack Exchange site for mathematical questions please see Mathematics.

Stack Exchange has updated their rules of behavior and it would be great if members followed it. I prefer to err on the side of kindness than to rush to close or criticize.

• How do we stop it from being closed? I'm happy to do the editing. I hesitated, because I'm not sure what her situation is. – Sue VanHattum Oct 28 '14 at 19:16
• 5 votes to close (or one from any mod) will close it. At 4 now. The comment to highlight the question is what prompted my edit. If you can edit further to change its nature to educator vs a regular math question, you should. In general, "how to teach" vs "how do I solve this" is sometimes subtle, but it's an important distinction. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Oct 28 '14 at 19:38
• The post is on hold now. @SueVanHattum as the orginal poster seems unresponsive I think the best is that you edit as you see fit and then reopen it. – quid Oct 29 '14 at 12:46
• Since she hasn't returned, I'll leave it. – Sue VanHattum Oct 29 '14 at 13:37

Just a comment from a Newbie. This seems to have happened again with a person asking about the motivation for learning Fouier Series. It was the first time he was on the site for nearly a year. He has previously asked many education oriented questions on MathsSE, including curriculum questions, but only 1 other on MESE.

2 of the first 3 comments were to go to MathsSE, which is where he came from. The question was closed.

Is MESE really getting so many questions that when a maths educator asks for motivation for an educational topic (though his wording could have been better), he is basically told to go away? [edit: I understand that was not the intent of the commenters]

dustin's above answer would also have been good guidance. [edit: I have been told that it took over 24 hours before it was closed]

• I am a moderator, but seldom use my moderator status. I would happily reopen this. It looks like a good question. I recommend that anyone who is considering putting a question on hold consider very carefully first whether there is a generous interpretation of the question, that would make it work. Editing for clarity is much better than closing. – Sue VanHattum Feb 24 '15 at 21:56
• A couple of votes to reopen accumulated, and I cast the final one to reopen. I would, however, like to say in addition that the question was open for about 36 hours before it was but on hold; and, that putting a question on hold, is not irreversible. Generally speaking, users voting to close have a considerable stake in the site and do so (in the overwhelming majority of case) in what they consider to be the best interest of the site; they should also not be alienated. It is surely not a nice thing to get a question closed but I would not at all equate it with telling a user to go away. – quid Feb 24 '15 at 23:58
• @quid I understand that closing the question and telling him that the question belonged in MathSE (which he had already tried) was not intended to mean "go away". However, I would be surprised if a new or irregular user did not experience it in this way. It also appeared to me that the question was closed after the user had commented verifying his educational intent and you had edited the question to reflect that, which struck me as very strange. I apologise if my tone was unnecessarily harsh. – Richard Feb 25 '15 at 3:12
• I know this particular user from another site, and I strongly dislike (at least) the wording of his questions. Sentences as "Does it have any real life application or is it just a mathematical exercise?" rub me the wrong way. – Mark Fantini Mar 14 '15 at 17:52
• @MarkFantini I sympathise to some extent, but as he is not a student in my class, I don't take it personally. In fact I have been personally reviewing what and why we teach, and I would not be surprised if in the next 20 years much of our current treasured curriculum goes the way of the Elements. Something that was fundamental to maths curricula for 2000 years has not been part of mainstream modern curricula for decades. Even many universities ignore it except for history of maths. Why? Because it is just a mathematical exercise. I actually find it a reasonable question. – Richard Mar 15 '15 at 6:08