I looked at Parenting Stack Exchange and Math Stack Exchange's unanswered page, and one thing that stood out to me is that Parenting SE had only 7 questions, all within the past 2 weeks, but Math SE has nearly 173,000 unanswered questions (at the time of posting).

Do different SE's have different processes internally for marking questions as unanswered?

From what I understand, Parenting SE is a much more tight-knit community with fewer posts per day, but Math SE is much bigger with many more questions asked, and their unanswered questions can be both posted recently or a few years ago.

This might be a bit of a technical question, but thanks for taking the time to read my question. Please also explain in layman's terms, because I am a beginner at programming in general.

  • 1
    Math is hard, Toby.
    – user1228
    May 10, 2017 at 13:54
  • That's not my point, but programming is definitely easier to learn than maths.
    – Toby Mak
    May 10, 2017 at 23:36

3 Answers 3


There's no magical process - what you see is really what you get. I suppose it's just a matter of what sort of subject matter experts you need to answer a question.

The criteria are broadly the same - they are questions with no upvoted or accepted answers and it should quite literally say so when you select the appropriate tab.

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Parenting.SE is a newer site than Math.SE (so fewer overall questions).

"Traffic" works both ways - questions are more likely to be spotted by people who're trawling the front pages, but questions can also slip off it. Some users search by tag (particularly on SO).

And well, at least in theory, there are more possible answers for a "soft" subject than a technical one. I wouldn't say parenting is any easier than math, but there are more potentially 'correct' answers there.

So, you're looking at two different sites, with very different 'styles' of questions, and communities, with different groups of people capable of answering said questions. They aren't really comparable off raw numbers at all.

  • It's only newer by 8 months or so... Just... you know. On the scale of 6 years 10 months vs 6 years 2 months, that's not a huge difference.I think the metric of overall number of questions is more useful than site age. Parenting isn't going to get 774.2 thousand questions in 8 months.
    – Catija
    May 10, 2017 at 22:18
  • Does the number of real-life parents and mathematicians correlate with the number of users in Parenting and Math SE? If so, my reasoning would be that there would be more questions asked, and more unanswered questions in proportion.
    – Toby Mak
    May 10, 2017 at 23:40
  • I am doubtful that is the case. May 10, 2017 at 23:41
  • @JourneymanGeek Do you have any evidence?
    – Toby Mak
    May 11, 2017 at 9:13
  • All mathematicians have parents.... Not all parents have mathematicians .... May 11, 2017 at 11:09
  • @JourneymanGeek Nice one!
    – Toby Mak
    May 11, 2017 at 13:00

It's mostly the difference of site subjects. In parenting, everyone is an expert; everyone knows exactly how to raise someone else's children. In math, one needs to have more than an opinion in order to answer a question.

  • 2
    heh. I was trying very hard to avoid the "everyone's an expert" phrasing ;p May 10, 2017 at 15:11

Some sites specifically work at getting unanswered questions answered. Here's an example from Travel Meta. Others don't mind whether questions are marked as answered or not. Some sites have a culture of upvoting and accepting (the unanswered tab actually shows questions without upvoted answers) and some have less of that. Some sites remove questions that can't be answered and some let them hang around in the belief that they will get answers eventually when the right person comes to the site.

So what you observe is a combination of the subject matter (whether the question even can be answered), the closing/downvoting/deleting strategy (do questions that cannot be answered get deleted), the answering habits of the populace (travel folks go do google searches, ask on twitter, and perform real research in order to answer someone's unanswered question), and the upvoting and accepting habits (a good answer may sit at zero votes, keeping the question on the unanswered tab). It's not surprising that sites diverge as a result.

Is it a problem? I don't think so. I never use the "unanswered" tab or decide which questions on the main page I will read based on whether they have answers or not. I don't find it a particularly important statistic. Do you?

  • I actually find this topic important, because in Math SE (where I spend lots of time on) there is a very active community, so I typically use the unanswered tab to answer questions that are new and unanswered. I think that older questions that come up by searching tags tend to be the questions that fall out of the communities' interest.
    – Toby Mak
    May 25, 2017 at 22:24

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