It looks like we've decided math problems are off-topic, though we've yet to put to words the explicit difference between a math problem and a math puzzle. Despite a lack of a clear dividing line, though, we still seem to agree they're off-topic. I'd like to propose a close reason.

Here's a wording I'll propose, at least to start with:

This question is off-topic as it appears to be a mathematics problem, as opposed to a mathematical puzzle. For more info, see "Are math-textbook-style problems on topic?" on meta.

I have a couple comments on this, concerning migration and vagueness.

First, migration, which may just be something to clear up. Migrations are good for questions which are truly high quality, but just aren't on-topic here. If a question is great, it can definitely be migrated; however, if the question was anything less than good, we'd probably avoid migrating it. (The general idea is "don't migrate crap.")

The workflow I imagine with respect to this close reason is: if it's a math problem, close it. If it's a good math question that shows effort and an attempt at a solution, anyone can/should flag it so it can be migrated to Math.SE.

Second, vagueness. It doesn't seem like the community's clear on how we'd put in words the difference between a math problem and a math puzzle. However, I think we have a fairly strong "I know it when I see it" consensus. I personally think that's enough for us to go on, and for the most part, it's probably common knowledge, too. I do imagine questions on meta in the future regarding specific questions' topicality, but they're probably honestly helpful in developing consensus about these questions.

Is this wording going to work well, and is there a better way to phrase it? (And/or are there unforeseen issues that this might cause?)

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm in favour of your suggestion, but I want to add that even "good maths" questions should only migrated if they are truly questions and not challenges, i.e. if the poster is generally interested in getting an answer, not just challenging others to find the answer he knows already. (This is a speciality of puzzles and uncommon to other SE sides.) $\endgroup$
    – BmyGuest
    Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 20:38

2 Answers 2


I agree. This would allow people to actively close math questions, instead of erring on the side of caution when they see something math. Something that could be done in conjunction to this would be to synoymize with to reduce the confusion with math problems.

Some unforeseen side effect could be confusion with what really defines a math problem. We really shouldn't migrate another

What is x if 3x=4x/(5+3)

as Math S.E. already has a bunch of those. Also, the question might also be duplicate or off-topic on Math S.E. We might need a bit of a clearer community consensus before we implement this, but it's a good idea in general.

Sample question to close (and not migrate): Fraction Puzzle

  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure we don't already have a consensus; is it generally not clear when a question is a math problem versus a puzzle? Are there examples of this confusion on the main site? $\endgroup$
    – user20
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 16:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Emrakul I think there's gray area. There are fairly popular questions that I think are closable under my personal interpretation but that I have hesitated to close-vote for. But, that shouldn't stop us from trying this. $\endgroup$
    – xnor
    Commented Mar 2, 2015 at 2:43
  • $\begingroup$ @xnor Yeah, I change the "needs" to "might" $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 2, 2015 at 21:09

Considering this question and similar posts, perhaps it'd be a better idea to use one of the few custom off-topic slots on something more broad:

This question is off-topic as it appears to be a test of knowledge or research skills, as opposed to a puzzle.

This would encompass "math problems," trivia, "find this English word," jokes, etc.

  • $\begingroup$ Doorknob, it might be to broad though. But then again, there were a bunch of low quality "common sense" puzzles. What word is always spelled incorrectly?... $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 2, 2015 at 21:13
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think this covers math problems. They are generally not tests of knowledge or research skills, but of abstract reasoning and formal deduction. But I think it's a useful close reason for the trivia class of off-topic problems. We just can't get both birds with one stone. $\endgroup$
    – xnor
    Commented Mar 2, 2015 at 22:47
  • $\begingroup$ So we should look through every single [knowledge] question, as they are "a test of knowledge". And most of the "what word is this" questions too? $\endgroup$
    – qwr
    Commented May 30 at 2:33

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