Around a month ago I asked a question on ME here. It was well received (got seven up votes). Sadly nobody was able to help much. To get more attention I also placed a bounty on it. Still no luck. The question was, does there exist three different primitive Pythagorean triples such that,


I personally don't believe this is possible and am trying to disprove it (but am also looking for a counter example). At this point I think it is fair to say the solution is not trivial. I am also confident that this is an open problem (in other words not solved/asked elsewhere) and it is theory based (not some calculation).

For these reasons I think this would fall under research if I cleaned it up a bit and posted some background. That background would include more work and some mathematical relationships that make this more interesting.

One thing that is holding me back is me. I'm not a research mathematician and I have little formal training in high level math. So I'm a little worried that won't be well received. So in conclusion,

  1. Is this question suitable for MO?
  2. Would I be discouraged from doing this based on my background?
  3. If I post this what can I do to make sure it is well received by others?
  4. Am I more likely to get help on this because people on MO are generally more knowledgeable than people on ME?

Update: Sorry for the delay I was putting together some new findings and wanted to get some computational support. For anybody interested I posted it here. I tried to follow as much of the advice given as possible but any suggestions are still appreciated. Thanks for all the help!

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    $\begingroup$ I would just go ahead and post on MO; since you tried MSE first, without success, this seems the obvious next step. I do notice you received quite some feedback on MSE. You will want to update the question to reflect that feedback, rather than just copying the question from MSE to MO. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 10:46
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    $\begingroup$ And if you post to MO, be sure to include a link to the m.se post in your MO post, and a link to the MO post in the m.se post. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 11:10
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    $\begingroup$ It may not be well received; that's no excuse for not posting a good question like this one. Background of poster should not matter, but writing should be clear. For the first attempt, err on the side of adding less: just enough for a general reader to understand the question. Link to here and to the other forum as others suggest. You may get better answers here on MathOverflow, but all you need is to find an interested person on some forum. Gerhard "Always Write For The Readers" Paseman, 2019.12.03. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 21:27
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    $\begingroup$ It’s a perfectly good question, and you’ll almost surely get much better answers on MO. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 13:45

1 Answer 1


You have the makings of a good question. To make it acceptable, keep it brief, provide links, and do not add much that is not pertinent.

I will use some of my questions as examples of what to avoid. One of my better questions (37679 on Westzynthius) has the disadvantage of including a lot of "necessary fluff": material I thought was useful to setup the question but in retrospect probably discourages reading to the end of the post where the actual questions are. (The length of my answers serves me, but is probably hard for others to read, so be careful about posting much material even in an answer.). On the plus side, I put a link to important stuff near the front, so that people can choose a more focussed presentation to understand the issues, in contrast with the loose associations that appear in the answers.

A later question (248042, on Grimm machines) tried a narrative style. This was great for a blog, not good for MathOverflow. I rewrote the question at the polite suggestion of another reader. You do not want to have a narrative style for this question. (I also find this useful, but it needs a lot of work to be a good MathOverflow question. Ideally, it should be eight linked questions on a common theme.)

268709 (On spoiling an injection) is better in brevity, but uses a fair amount of words to describe the situation, and might benefit from a picture. It is still not easy to read.

If you start with your question above, and then in a paragraph below add a link to the Math.stackexchange post, and then in a final paragraph briefly summarize your approach and/or motivation, that will be a good start. (Also link to this meta question, to show good faith in your attempt.) Your background should not matter, but your efforts should. If the community wants more, you can add more later.

Gerhard "Has More To Not Say" Paseman, 2019.12.03.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks I'm still slightly concerned about how much detail to add because there is a lot to this and I don't want it to look like I didn't show effort. I'll keep all that in mind when typing it up. My only other concern is that a lot of questions are about modern math research (not so much questions on Pythagorean triples) like algebraic geometry and stuff like that $\endgroup$
    – PMaynard
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 21:29
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    $\begingroup$ Good questions come from all over. if you link to previous efforts, that is better than adding too much. You can always add more at request of the audience. I think if you keep the post brief, and add the suggested links, that will be a good start. You aren't expected to ace it on the first try, but don't ignore the feedback either. Gerhard "Good Questions Take Good Time" Paseman, 2019.12.03. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 21:33
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    $\begingroup$ gerhard, for my first MO question, I had a good part of the background on separate web pages. Kevin Buzzard actually read some of that, and solved my question. My summary would be that a touch of luck is involved. My question was very long, but there was an expert curious enough to find out the whole thing. In the right circumstance, material off site can be a helpful thing $\endgroup$
    – Will Jagy
    Commented Dec 16, 2019 at 0:58

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