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# How do you feel about the Maths forum? watch

1. (Original post by Muttley79)
I think we support learning mathematcs better if we just give hints ...detail is not helpful as usually there's more than one way of tackling a problem
I don't post detailed solutions (unless posting a "model" solution, which I do occasionally).

But detail is helpful when explaining exactly where in a page of calculations an OP has gone wrong. Or explaining how to advance to "the next line" in their solution.

When someone has posted something like:

I hope you can see that it's pretty darn painful looking at that in one browser tab and trying to reply to it in another tab.
2. (Original post by DFranklin)
I don't post detailed solutions (unless posting a "model" solution, which I do occasionally).

But detail is helpful when explaining exactly where in a page of calculations an OP has gone wrong. Or explaining how to advance to "the next line" in their solution.

When someone has posted something like:

I hope you can see that it's pretty darn painful looking at that in one browser tab and trying to reply to it in another tab.
I'd just say look again at line three or whichever the error is in.

Be honest, how many times do people post asking for help with this level of maths?
3. (Original post by Muttley79)
I think you are being too fussy - posting a hint does not need a massive effort.
Well, that's too broad a statement to be true. Sometimes a hint takes a couple of minutes, sometimes I have to solve the problem in order to find a nice hint that points someone in the right direction. And to latex it up nicely can be time consuming. And writing up explanatory background information can take a long time, and need a lot of thought to assemble.

I don't think we should expect posters to learn LaTex to get help - that's not encouraging more people to use the site.

As long as people post attachments the right way up and preferably post ther working them I'm happy to give a hint.
I'm broadly in agreement but with caveats:

The fundamental problem is ensuring that people post comprehensible questions. To my mind, this means either:

a) writing up clear latex or
b) posting a photo/upload of clear readable working, at the right resolution

I prefer latex, since even with a good picture, sometimes it's hard to read someone's writing style, but that's a relatively minor thing.

Too often people do neither, and we end up with a half-arsed attempt at formatted mathematics (e.g. x^2+2x+1/3x-1 or int[0^1] e^(-x)sin(x)dx) that is almost-latex, but either totally unreadable without lots of effort, or ambiguous. Given that many people try to write formatted mathematics, it's certainly not unreasonable to push them to go the whole hog and stick tex tags around it. It would be nice to have a dedicated tex button in the editor to do this.

In addition, whereas say 5 years ago, latex was a rare and seldom seen beast, these days, we are in the world of MathJax - it's easy to for sites to support it, and hence it will become more common, and more expected. It's in the interests of people learning maths to learn latex at the same time, so we ought to encourage it, if not require it.

Another advantage of requiring someone to either provide latex or good attachments is that is forces them to think about the layout and presentation of their work. Far too often, I see bizarre, barely comprehensible stream-of-conciousness descriptions of working ("..and then I multiplied by x^2, which made the whole thing = <blah>, and then I divided by 2, which seemed to give the right result..." ) rather than the actual working itself - I don't want a story, I want your working.

And to echo DFranklin's complaint: I have poor vision specifically at screen distance (unusually, I have good very-near vision, and good far vision, but am near sighted at 0.5.-1m) - even with glasses, I sometimes struggle to read attachments, and the poorly formatted semi-latex monstrosities, so typically I simply ignore them. It's not unreasonable to expect people who are requesting help to put in some effort to ensure that other people can, in fact, help them.
4. Wait you're not supposed to post full solutions? LOL. Granted I've only been here for a month or bit and I didn't know, maybe make it more clear? I see a maths question on the side bar thing and I just answer it if I'm bothered :s. Didn't know it was a rule. Also I imagine it would be beneficial to learn Latex, I had to learn it for first year undergrad and it can help people as the ones who are answering the questions are the ones generally who are going to be doing maths at university or something related.
5. (Original post by Muttley79)
I'd just say look again at line three or whichever the error is in.
Which, bluntly, is usually not very much help at all with this kind of thing.

Be honest, how many times do people post asking for help with this level of maths?
Varies depending on term time etc. but there are often multiple undergradute level posts per day.

(In an edit to my earlier post I linked to a (less severe) example that I'd just replied to).

To be fair, it's more an issue of complexity (and in particular how many things are easy to misremember when replying - the exact letters someone used for indices are a particular case where you almost have to refer back letter-by-letter). On the flip side, any thing of similar complexity can be problematic, whatever the level. For example, the STEP/AEA threads may not be at the same level, but the working can often get similarly complicated.

[Reminds me: in the past I've 'annotated' STEP solutions people have given to try to show where they might have lost marks or could have done things better. That's just not practical when they've posted an attachment].
6. (Original post by Nulliverse)
Wait you're not supposed to post full solutions? LOL. Granted I've only been here for a month or bit and I didn't know, maybe make it more clear? I see a maths question on the side bar thing and I just answer it if I'm bothered :s. Didn't know it was a rule.
Yes it's a rule.

https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/sho...1#post64637319

(Original post by rayquaza17)
Quoting the maintainer of the guide to get his attenion...
Just noticed that the sidebar link goes to an old version of the guide (insparato's old one) which only discourages full solutions.

Certainly the discouragement of full solutions isn't working very well on here at the moment.
7. (Original post by atsruser)
Well, that's too broad a statement to be true. Sometimes a hint takes a couple of minutes, sometimes I have to solve the problem in order to find a nice hint that points someone in the right direction. And to latex it up nicely can be time consuming. And writing up explanatory background information can take a long time, and need a lot of thought to assemble.

I'm broadly in agreement but with caveats:

The fundamental problem is ensuring that people post comprehensible questions. To my mind, this means either:

a) writing up clear latex or
b) posting a photo/upload of clear readable working, at the right resolution

I prefer latex, since even with a good picture, sometimes it's hard to read someone's writing style, but that's a relatively minor thing.

Too often people do neither, and we end up with a half-arsed attempt at formatted mathematics (e.g. x^2+2x+1/3x-1 or int[0^1] e^(-x)sin(x)dx) that is almost-latex, but either totally unreadable without lots of effort, or ambiguous. Given that many people try to write formatted mathematics, it's certainly not unreasonable to push them to go the whole hog and stick tex tags around it. It would be nice to have a dedicated tex button in the editor to do this.

In addition, whereas say 5 years ago, latex was a rare and seldom seen beast, these days, we are in the world of MathJax - it's easy to for sites to support it, and hence it will become more common, and more expected. It's in the interests of people learning maths to learn latex at the same time, so we ought to encourage it, if not require it.

Another advantage of requiring someone to either provide latex or good attachments is that is forces them to think about the layout and presentation of their work. Far too often, I see bizarre, barely comprehensible stream-of-conciousness descriptions of working ("..and then I multiplied by x^2, which made the whole thing = <blah>, and then I divided by 2, which seemed to give the right result..." ) rather than the actual working itself - I don't want a story, I want your working.

And to echo DFranklin's complaint: I have poor vision specifically at screen distance (unusually, I have good very-near vision, and good far vision, but am near sighted at 0.5.-1m) - even with glasses, I sometimes struggle to read attachments, and the poorly formatted semi-latex monstrosities, so typically I simply ignore them. It's not unreasonable to expect people who are requesting help to put in some effort to ensure that other people can, in fact, help them.
If there's a slip then saying 'look again; is often enough.

Most people asking for help are at school and should NOT be expected to learn LaTex to get help.

As I said no-one has to offer help on here - there are others who will if you don't
8. (Original post by atsruser)
In addition, whereas say 5 years ago, latex was a rare and seldom seen beast, these days, we are in the world of MathJax - it's easy to for sites to support it, and hence it will become more common, and more expected. It's in the interests of people learning maths to learn latex at the same time, so we ought to encourage it, if not require it.
I agree that LaTeX should be encouraged for undergrad threads - there's a good chance that they'll have to learn it at some point anyway.

But the vast majority of threads are school level maths and requiring LaTeX would be a big mistake if we want to encourage more students to come to this subforum.
9. (Original post by Fox Corner)
Hi guys

We've noticed that posting in the Maths forum has been really low for the past couple of months.

We just wanted to know if you've noticed anything wrong in the forum, and whether we could do anything to help? Either in terms of helping to promote threads, create content, or even help keep the forum tidy.
1. Prevent people from posting problems in the forum above this one - I rarely look there. In fact, what is that forum for?

2. Add some more encouragement to use latex:

a) When a post is made in the maths forum, the preview could say "Have you thought about using latex? - you may get better answers" or something like that.

b) Add a dedicated latex tag button to the editor, to automatically insert  tags.

c) Maybe add a few dedicated buttons to insert common latex formatting a la LyX

3. More policing of thread titles - "Maths problem", "Help needed" are no use to anyone.
10. (Original post by atsruser)
The fundamental problem is ensuring that people post comprehensible questions.
I agree that this is the most fundamental issue, but for me a non-trivial secondary issue is providing questions in a machine readable/editable/copyable format. That both means I can adjust font sizes etc. to get something that's easier to read (just magnifying doesn't work so well if you then need to continually scroll around to read entire lines), and I can also copy the relevant bit temporarily into my reply so what I am replying to is directly in front of me. (Plus I can actually copy their LaTeX, if they've used it, which saves me time + effort). It appears I'm in a minority on this but it's why your option (b) falls below "write it out in plain text" as far as I'm concerned.

Too often people do neither, and we end up with a half-arsed attempt at formatted mathematics (e.g. x^2+2x+1/3x-1 or int[0^1] e^(-x)sin(x)dx)
I'm actually fine with the latter construct - the first one is ambiguous, of course.

In addition, whereas say 5 years ago, latex was a rare and seldom seen beast, these days, we are in the world of MathJax - it's easy to for sites to support it, and hence it will become more common, and more expected. It's in the interests of people learning maths to learn latex at the same time, so we ought to encourage it, if not require it.
Not sure this is actually the case. I'm sure LaTeX use on TSR has fallen since 5 years ago. LaTeX is still dominant amongst professional mathematicians but it remains to see if that will continue into the future. (To be honest, I'm guessing that it will, and it's one of the reasons I think you're probably right that it should be encouraged on here, at least for university level posters).

It's not unreasonable to expect people who are requesting help to put in some effort to ensure that other people can, in fact, help them.
I totally agree and I think this is something that's often lost on people. On a similar note, if 100 people are going to read your post, it's better if you spend half an hour making it clear + legible than that 100 people all have to spend an extra minute deciphering something.
11. (Original post by Muttley79)
If there's a slip then saying 'look again; is often enough.
I'm not sure what point you're trying to make here. Your statement is trivially true in some cases, and irrelevant in others.

Most people asking for help are at school and should NOT be expected to learn LaTex to get help.
You are attacking a straw-man - always fun, but essentially pointless. I didn't suggest that anyone be expected to learn latex - I suggested that they be encouraged to do so.

There's no point sticking your head in the sand - we're not in the 1990s anymore - technologies like latex on the web will only become more prevalent over time, and a bit of encouragement to use it is IMNEFCTHO only a good thing.

As I said no-one has to offer help on here - there are others who will if you don't
Once again, I don't understand the point that you're trying make here.
12. All of study help could do with some extra (more visible/high profile) help for people - especially posting for the first time - on how to get the best help

- posting in the right forum (the A level forum is constantly full of other subjects questions or uni application questions - IIRR there was supposed to a script that prompted users to post elsewhere if their post contained certain subject words? if so that doesn't seem to be working and neither does the automatic responses tagging in CT members to move threads - they're just ignored and left to languish). I don't know why the A level forum is on all the quick links tbh - the only threads that really "belong" in there are "picking your subjects" and "results day" threads.
- a good descriptive thread title
- a good first post explaining what the question/problem is, what the user has tried so far and what they're struggling with - including how/when to use latex/attaching images

And then there's the task of actually building a community
- getting users to post responses to other threads and not just post their questions. The VIP club is supposed to help with this but it only rewards a sub set of people and only for answering threads that have been left for 2+ hours - that doesn't encourage *live* discussion/responses.
- helping users in developing their ability to help out on threads without just posting the answers - maybe a companion to the "how to post good questions"
- chat/discussion threads - these used to be common in subforums but have dropped dramatically over the last few years. I've suggested it before but personally I would close the DCA forums and move all debate to be "academic" debate within study help and linked to academic subjects. Reduce the problems modding the DCA forums and increase the traffic to the academic areas (and change the tone of debate from being proving other people wrong to genuinely understanding all sides of various isses).
- competitions/quizzes/events

I'd suggest:
a) getting some of your vloggers to put together some video guides and articles to getting the most out of Study Help
b) promoting the CRAP out of those videos to any new user trying to create a thread in Study Help
c) take the A levels/GCSE forum links out of all the shortcut menus and link instead to study help subject areas
d) bring in a monthly competition (with a cash prize) for i) starting the study help thread with the most replies that month and ii) posting the most replies in study help that got repped that month
e) dedicate a member of the CT to keeping study help tidy and issuing warnings/cards reminding people to post in the right place, make posts that follow the guidelines for a OP and that follow the guidelines for a good response. THIS IS LABOUR INTENSIVE but required if you're going to have functioning study help - too many OPs are new and just looking for someone to do their work for them to rely on reporting and responsive modding.
f) offer some free adverts on TSR to sixth form colleges who encourage their staff and students to join in and get help and give help on TSR.
g) get some really good ST and CA members (with powers to pick threads out of A levels/GCSE not just to tidy up the Maths forum) and SUPPORT them by doing the work in e) so they can get on with building the community.
13. (Original post by DFranklin)
I agree that this is the most fundamental issue, but for me a non-trivial secondary issue is providing questions in a machine readable/editable/copyable format. That both means I can adjust font sizes etc. to get something that's easier to read
Well, I guess this means that we both prefer latex, for probably similar reasons (readability), but I can live without it, as long as the alternative is readable.

I'm actually fine with the latter construct - the first one is ambiguous, of course.
Both tend to put me off - I don't like the extra step of mentally parsing the maths that is necessary - in small amounts, it's fine; when there's reams of it, I don't bother.

Not sure this is actually the case. I'm sure LaTeX use on TSR has fallen since 5 years ago. LaTeX is still dominant amongst professional mathematicians but it remains to see if that will continue into the future.
I was referring more generally to web, and not specifically to TSR, though you may well be right regarding stats for this site.

Take a look at sites in the stackexchange group - they're fully mathjax based, and there's lots of maths posted there. Latex on the web is not going to diminish now. "How do I display maths on a web page" is a problem that has been solved, essentially, and the answer is via latex, using mathjax.

I totally agree and I think this is something that's often lost on people. On a similar note, if 100 people are going to read your post, it's better if you spend half an hour making it clear + legible than that 100 people all have to spend an extra minute deciphering something.
Good point.
14. (Original post by atsruser)
Both tend to put me off - I don't like the extra step of mentally parsing the maths that is necessary - in small amounts, it's fine; when there's reams of it, I don't bother.
It doesn't really take effort for me until it starts getting pretty involved. But for sure you get to a point where it's like "Sorry, OP, but you really need to use LaTeX for this..."

Take a look at sites in the stackexchange group - they're fully mathjax based, and there's lots of maths posted there.
Stackexchange is much closer to a "professional mathematician" website though.

Latex on the web is not going to diminish now. "How do I display maths on a web page" is a problem that has been solved, essentially, and the answer is via latex, using mathjax.
And yet, it has diminished, noticeably, on this site. Partly laziness/culture, but in addition I think the problem of "how do I enter maths on a mobile device?" has not been solved. Using LaTeX is painful on my (7 inch) tablet, let alone my mobile phone. When you've got that barrier, on the same device that has a method for instantly uploading photographs, the consequences are predictable.

[Note that I'm saying this as someone who first used LaTeX almost 30 years ago...]
15. (Original post by DFranklin)
It doesn't really take effort for me until it starts getting pretty involved. But for sure you get to a point where it's like "Sorry, OP, but you really need to use LaTeX for this..."

Stackexchange is much closer to a "professional mathematician" website though.
Yes, but it's indicative of future trends, I'd say.

And yet, it has diminished, noticeably, on this site. Partly laziness/culture, but in addition I think the problem of "how do I enter maths on a mobile device?" has not been solved.
This is probably true - if use of latex has diminished here, it may well correlate with the growth of mobile devices. But if that's a problem, then I guess it's outside the scope of this site to fix.
16. (Original post by Muttley79)
No GCSE student should be expected to use LaTex nor is it appropriate to even suggest that they do. Many of these posters won't be going on to do Maths A level.
As has been repeatedly said to you, this is a straw man. No-one is asking for GCSE students to use LaTeX.

As far as people transitioning from GCSE to A-level; I'll note that A-level posts vastly outnumber GCSE posts on here. I'd rather we base any policies on what works for A-level and above (while making it clear that common sense applies: if you're posting x^2-3x+2 = 0, no-one is going to complain you didn't use LaTeX, no-one expects you to painfully use the graphics commands in LaTeX to reproduce diagrams (and so, no-one expects you to use LaTeX for GCSE questions)),

Edit: at the same time, even GCSE students probably need to appreciate that if they mean , they need to write (3x-1)/(x+2), not 3x-1/x+2.
17. Some ideas from another academic help forum:

As can be seen above, when a student starts a new thread they are told to make a specific thread title. Also, they are given a template (that can be deleted) which encourages the student to post their working.

Its something to think about for this subforum. I really like the title prompt but if we had a template then I think two sections would be clearer : question and attempt at a solution.
18. Throwing this out there as a thought:

GCSE posts are almost non-existent on F38, but there's a lot more GCSE traffic on F373. I have to say that I find I don't ever really keep up with 2 forums simultaneously, so I tend to neglect F373.

The separation I tried to maintain was that questions that only made sense in the context of an exam (e.g. syllabus questions, "how should I prepare for STEP") went in the exam forum, but actual exam questions went in F38 (because they are just need you to know the mathematical content). There were a few exceptions and dedicated threads in F373 around exam time, but that was the general plan.

My feeling is that this worked a bit better in terms of getting people to help out. I feel the current system tends to segregate a bit more, so "undergrads never comment on exam questions, STEP people rarely contribute to A-level questions etc".

May well be my own biased perspective, of course.
19. (Original post by notnek)
Its something to think about for this subforum. I really like the title prompt but if we had a template then I think two sections would be clearer : question and attempt at a solution.
How would you see this working with attachments? (It's precisely because of issues like this that I don't like attachments).
20. (Original post by Muttley79)
People are saying they would suggest it ...totally not appropriate even at A level.
I don't think the suggestion is inappropriate, and here's why:

Suppose someone is trying to solve a question about arclength (so we're going to be discussing things like ).

So, they don't want to use LaTeX, and they post an attachment. Fine.

Now suppose someone replies pushing them one step towards a solution. How is that discussion going to go? Are they going to post an attachment every time they want to post their next piece of working? (And if so, are people going to reply to the wrong attachment, etc. causing mass confusion? Answer: Yes).

Earlier you said "it's bad to give full solutions". I totally agree. I have frequently replied 10+ times to a poster to enable them to find their own solution. But I think this kind of help is very difficult to give if they can only respond via attachments.

Exactly where the boundary is where "you're going to find life much easier if you learn LaTeX" is debatable. Some people will love LaTeX (I think I'd have loved it at GCSE level), some will find it horrible and do all they can to avoid it. But I think it's clear that at least some A-level students would find it useful, and so to suggest it to them does not seem inappropriate.

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