Top 10 math help sites
By Murray Bourne, 27 Apr 2011
Here are some of the best places to ask your math questions, each at zero cost. Do you have a favorite that I've missed?
Answered by experts
1. Ask Dr. Math has been going since 1994 and has a wealth of answers to a broad range of readers' questions. It's searchable, as are all the recommendations below.
UPDATE (Jan 2018): Dr Math is now called "The Math Doctors" and has moved to a new site. New questions may be submitted at TheMathDoctors.org/ask/
The answers in each of the following forums are provided by members of the forum. The quality of the answers varies - caveat emptor!
The list below is roughly in order of answer quality, but if course, it depends on each particular question.
2. Physics forums - math category around 30,000 questions. There's also a section specifically for homework questions. You need to show your own work before anyone will answer you - and rightly so. The rules for Physics Forums (including a list of banned topics) has helped to maintain its quality.
3. My Math Forum - around 15,000 questions with answers so far.
4. AskMe Help Desk (math category) This one allows for math notation in questions and answers.
5. Askville (math category) (by Amazon - has disappeared).
6. Yahoo answers (Click on "Science & Mathematics", then "Mathematics").
7. Answerbag (math category). Around 5000 questions in clearly defined sub-categories (no longer exists)
9. OpenStudy (math category) This one is quite new. Their slogan is "Make the World Your Study Group". The interface is very chat-like and you can see answers appearing to questions in real time. This one is free to look at, but there is a membership fee for asking questions.
10. Wolfram|Alpha. This is not a forum - it's a "computational knowledge engine". Many forum questions I saw can easily be solved using Wolfram|Alpha, for example "Convert 6 inches to cm." or "Factor r^6 - 3r^4 +3r^2 -1". And the answer will be correct!
Disclaimer and suggestion
With most of these sites, you can ask your homework question and if you are lucky, someone will answer it for you. (Some sites will only answer you if you show some working first, to indicate you are not being lazy, you are a genuine student, and you are actually stuck in the middle of the question.)
If you are even luckier, the answer provided will be correct and will have some good explanation to go with it.
Now, you can just copy the answer given into your homework assignment and get marks for it - but what have you learned?
Some of the answers I've seen on these sites are plain incorrect (some people want to be sociable, rather than right) and the risk is, you would copy the answer and get it wrong.
My suggestion then, is to do several other similar questions from your text book to make sure you really know how to do it after getting help from a forum. In this way, you'll actually be able to do that kind of question when it comes out in a test, and more importantly, you will be building your knowledge and skills for future learning.
Do you have a recommendation for a good forum beyond the ones I've listed?
See the 30 Comments below.