(Note: if adopted, references to mathematics and Math.SE shall be
adapted to computer science and CS.SE.)
Can I ask a homework question here?
There are actually two factors involved here, one is on your end, and
one over here on this website.
As a general rule, we do not discourage any specific category of
questions, as long as it is mathematical. But please do make an
effort to search through the list of previously asked questions. In
our experience homework questions are usually not very imaginative,
and tend to fall in one of the abstract categories of commonly asked
will close duplicate questions, especially if they are of homework
On the other hand, whether your learning institution (middle school,
high school, college, etc.) and your teacher or professor allows you
to consult other people, or to post the exact question on the
internet, is something that is usually addressed by your institution's
honor code or rules and regulations, and any specific class policies.
You should ask your teacher whether asking a homework question here is
appropriate before posting your question.
How do I ask a homework question on this website?
Please use the homework
serves several purposes: the most important of which is to let the
answerer know to give an answer that more clearly explains the
underlying concepts. In other words, we believe in the "teach a man to
Also, please put some work into formulating your question. Please do
not just copy and paste the exact question text from your homework
sheet. In particular, when you are asking for help, writing in
imperative mode ("Show that...", "Compute...", or "Prove or find a
counterexample: ...") is at the very least impolite: you are, after
all, trying to ask a question, not give an
also turns many people off.
If you feel that it is somehow just so much more straightforward to
copy and paste, then it is generally good real world advice to both
quote the question (because you are copying after all) and give
a reference to the source (so that others can refer to the context
of the question).
You should also volunteer all relevant information (see next section).
It is a waste of everybody's time if someone has to ask for what you
should explicitly have given.
What information should I include in a question about homework?
The following are some things that may help your question get better
answers, or at least answer more tailored to your situation.
- The context. What kind of course it is, what textbook you use.
It wouldn't help you if someone gives an answer using some
sophisticated, high-powered machinery that you have never seen before.
(An example would be asking for help about a step that is used to
prove a big theorem in the textbook, and receiving an answer using
said big theorem.)
- All the definitions. If you are asking about a question that is
more advanced than basic college-level calculus, then you should
consider including the definitions. A lot of homework questions are
assigned to familiarize you with the definitions used in the course.
For many objects in mathematics there are several equivalent
definitions. What needs to be proven when starting from one set of
definitions may actually be a trivial consequence in a different set
of definitions and vice versa. It is important that you let us know
what framework in which you work so our answers can properly address
- Show your work. You should definitely include any partial work
you have done. This will help bolster your claim that you are not just
coming here asking other people to do your homework for you, and it
will help the answerers to give more clinical responses. Showing your
work will help us gauge where you are having problems: if it is a
technical thing near the end, a short to the point answer will
suffice; if it is some fundamental problem with understanding the
subject, we will then write a longer, more detailed response. It will
also prevent people from spending a lot of time going over ground that
you have already covered or understand well already.
Why don't you provide a complete answer to my question?
We've had another
the point of view of the answerer, and you should see that for a more
complete discussion. To quote the accepted answer in that thread, we
Providing an answer that doesn't help
a student learn is not in the
student's own best interest, and if a
solution complete enough to be copied
verbatim and handed in is given
immediately, it will encourage more
people to use the site as a free
homework service. In the spirit of
creating a lasting resource of
mathematical knowledge, you may come
back after a suitable amount of time
and edit your response to include a
more complete answer. Or even better,
the student can post his own correct
This is the current policy on our sister site Mathematics Stack
Proposed by David
with the following endorsement:
I vote for the Math Area policy. As a former teacher, I am uncomfortable without at least a policy that encourages students to mark their questions as
homework and responders to answer such questions with hints rather
than fully worked out solutions. I know there are many problems with
such a policy, but
I'd rather not just capitulate in the face of them and open things up
totally for homework cheating (for that's what it is). At least if
there is a policy
in place, some if not most of the honest folks will do the right
thing. Without such a policy, honest folks are penalized.