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Sir Cumference
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Maths Forum Posting Guidelines

Before you post questions or help others in the maths forum, there are a few important things you should be aware of. Firstly there are the Community Guidelines set out by TSR. Please read through this guide before posting in the maths forum. There are also a set of guidelines specific for the maths forum. These are split into guidelines for asking questions and guidelines for answering questions.


Asking Questions fffffffff ffffff fffffff Answering Questions

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Sir Cumference
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Asking Questions Guidelines

In the maths forum you can get help with any maths question, from Key Stage 3 to postgraduate level but we do expect that you have put a good amount of effort into a question before asking for help. The maths forum is not a "do my homework" service so there are some key guidelines below that we expect everyone who asks a question to follow.

  • Attempt the question before asking for help.
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    If you just post the question without showing any attempt you've made to answer it, you're likely to get the response "what have you tried?" Once you've posted your attempt, helpers will be able to give much more specific, useful hints.

  • Do not expect full solutions.
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    The maths forum is not a place to get your homework done for you; instead of providing full solutions, we will point you in the right direction on a question so that you can reach the solution yourself and hopefully help you understand the underlying concepts better in the process, which will turn out much more useful for you in the end!

  • Always post the full question including all your working.
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    The more working you post, the more chance a helper has of identifying the specific part of the question that you are stuck on. Also, for a lot of questions working is meaningless without the accompanying question so please always post an exact copy of the full question that you are tackling.


There are some supplementary guidelines below designed to make question threads clear and give your thread the best chance of receiving a useful reply. Please try to follow these guidelines as much as possible whenever you start a question thread.

  • Use informative thread titles.
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    Threads with vague or unclear thread titles can be easily overlooked so please don't make threads with titles like 'maths' or 'homework help'. A clear thread title also means that students in the future who need help with the same question can find your thread.

  • Use study labels.
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    When making a new thread in the maths forum there is a drop-down titled "Label" where you can choose the study level of your question. This label will then be displayed next to your thread title in the forum. A question may require a different answer depending on whether it is for example a GCSE or A Level question so using a study label clearly shows what level of reply is needed.

  • If you are attaching images to your post then make sure they are clear.
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    Make sure any images you use are clearly displayed and have the correct orientation. If an image is not displaying as you expected then edit your post to correct it. If you are having problems attaching images to your post directly via TSR then consider embedding an image in a TSR post using Imgur.

  • Do not use ambiguous notation.
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    For example, if you are trying to type the fraction \frac{3}{x+1} then 3/(x+1) is much clearer than 3/x+1. If you plan to post questions regularly in the maths forum then consider learning LaTeX maths formatting.

  • Never hijack someone else's thread. Instead start a new thread or post in a megathread.
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    If someone has created a thread for help with their question then you should not be using their thread to get help with your own question, even if it is similar. Instead start a new thread or post in a megathread (index of megathreads) and if you like you could reference the other thread. Similarly, if you find an old thread where a student has asked the same question as the one you are stuck on, please do not post in this thread.

  • Try to keep all of the question in the first post of the thread.
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    If you reply to your own thread then for some helpers this will look like your thread has already been answered and they will be less likely to view your thread. So try to keep all of the information and images relating to the question in one post. For a similar reason, try to avoid bumping your thread unless it has received no replies for 24 hours.

  • Remember that people who reply to your questions are volunteers.
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    Don't get impatient and don't be rude to users who are trying to help you. If you are respectful to a person who is trying to help you then they will be more likely to help you again in the future!
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Sir Cumference
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Answering Questions Guidelines

When a student posts a question in the maths forum, we would like them to go away with more understanding than they had before. The best way to ensure this is to allow the student to do as much of the question themselves as possible. We do not expect all helpers to be expert teachers but we would like everyone to follow the key guidelines shown below.

  • Offer hints to guide the student. Full solutions will normally be removed.
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    In the maths forum, a "full solution" post is one that contains the full working to the problem posted and/or contains the final answer. We believe that the best way to help a student is to get them to do as much of the question as possible. Once the student has posted their working, we recommend starting by offering small hints then keep giving more hints until the student is able to proceed with the question. If a student is unwilling to post their working or is asking for a full solution then you should not offer them help.

  • Make sure that the student has attempted the question and posted their working before helping.
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    It is much easier to help a student once you have a clear picture of the working they have already tried and the reason they are stuck. If the user has only posted the question then it's best to ask them to post more detail instead of trying to guess where or why they are stuck.

  • If a hint has already been given, please do not offer a bigger hint.
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    Allow the student to respond to the smaller hint before offering them a larger one. We want students to do as much of the question themselves as possible. Giving a bigger hint can also be frustrating for the first helper since their post becomes redundant.


So that the student gets the most out of their question thread and to make sure the maths forum is a friendly place for students and helpers, there are some supplementary guidelines below that we recommend everyone follows.

  • Do not use ambiguous notation.
    More
    For example, if you are trying to type the fraction \frac{3}{x+1} then 3/(x+1) is much clearer than 3/x+1. If you plan to help students regularly in the maths forum then consider learning LaTeX maths formatting.

  • Do not "barge in" while another helper is offering hints.
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    If you notice that a student and helper are replying to each other back-and-forth then it's best to allow this one-on-one to continue without interrupting, unless you feel that the helper has made a mistake.

  • Never belittle a student.
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    In the maths forum we help students of all abilities tackle questions from all academic levels. If you think that a question is "easy" then it's likely that the student who asked it doesn't think this so try to put yourself in their shoes.

  • Only offer help to a student if you are confident that you can assist them.
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    If you are not confident with a question that a student has asked then it's often best not to try helping and leave it to someone else instead. You don’t want to make the student more confused than they were before. If you notice that a thread has gone unanswered for a while then feel free to try helping them or explain how they can edit their question to attract more helpers.

  • Keep your explanation and notation relevant to the academic level of the student.
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    For example if it is clear that a student has posted a GCSE question then don’t give them an A Level method for their question. Similarly try not to use university level notation when helping A Level students. An example of this is \log x which commonly denotes the natural logarithm post A Level but A Level students are more likely to recognise \ln x. If you’re not sure which topics/notation the student is familiar with then you should ask them before making assumptions.

  • Remain patient.
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    What is clear to you may not be clear to others. Remember to keep a cool head, and try not to become frustrated with users with a lower ability than your own. Do not patronise a user with snarky or otherwise sarcastic comments. Equally, do not feel obligated to help users who are themselves being rude or obnoxious.

  • Aim to assist the student with the method that they are already using.
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    Only offer alternative methods once the student is happy that their question has been answered or if you feel that the student’s current method is leading to confusion.
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