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It seems to me, based on two previous stack exchange questions (1, 2) that this is legal, but I'm wondering more if it's "okay," i.e. what do academics/professors think of this?

I'm interested in posting (my own) solutions to textbook problems (that I find interesting) online, as I self-study them. I'd guess some problems may be of interest to others, I get to possibly have discussions about them (maybe I mess up), and I get to practice explaining technical concepts through text (I'm interested in pedagogy). For what it's worth, I'm an undergrad (though soon to be grad) student. Ideally I'd want to do something similar to physicspages.com, though I doubt I'd have the same rigour. I'd be working on a textbook myself and using this as a sort of "learning by teaching" approach.

On the other hand, I know many professors use textbook problems as homework, and a publicly displayed website with textbook solutions might be easy to find on a search engine (so students may just copy). Would instructors think this is inappropriate?

In case it matters, I intend to start with Topological Insulators and Topological Superconductors by Bernevig since this is likely to be related to my PhD topic. (Though this could change on a whim)

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    @SolarMike Unfortunately, writing good problems is not trivial and professors have better things to do. – Thomas Dec 9 '18 at 6:12
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    The vast majority of professors for both my maths and physics courses have used textbook problems as homework exercises (either explicitly referencing them or just rewriting them into a new file). – tmph Dec 9 '18 at 6:30
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    Well, perhaps the professors I had had more integrity - they provided lots of problems, often based around their industry, research or work experience... – Solar Mike Dec 9 '18 at 6:32
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    That's certainly ideal and indeed typically the best professors I had did exactly as you described. However, I don't think the average professor writes all their problems, at least not in North America. A quick search for some uni course websites confirms this. Anyway, I suppose in response to the original question you think it's fine and any problems that arise is someone else's fault/problem? – tmph Dec 9 '18 at 6:35
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    If you do this, please label your web pages very clearly with the name of the textbook and a "spoiler" warning. I want to avoid reading answers to textbook exercises, so that I can do them for myself. – Patricia Shanahan Dec 9 '18 at 13:52
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While I don't think there is anything formally standing in your way of doing this, as long as you don't post the questions themselves or answers from the publisher's answer key, I don't think that it is a wise thing to do.

But I'll focus on future students rather than professors to explain why it isn't wise. For many things the only real way to learn them is to practice. This is true in math and the sciences as well as in, say swimming or chess. Learning involves changing the brain. See, for example, the book The Art of Changing the Brain by James E Zull.

The implication of this is that, very often, the most important part of a published textbook is the exercises, not the explanatory text. Students need to, perhaps, struggle with those exercises to learn the material. If you give them a shortcut to getting the answer, while it feels good to them, it makes it harder for them to learn the material. Too many students don't understand this (hence the need for a book like Zull's). It isn't a question of being able to turn in "homework" as much as it is having useful practice exercises that you can't short-circuit.

If you want to meet your own goals and also publish something useful, publish a set of additional exercises for a good book instead of answers for the existing exercises. You will find (a) that this is harder and (b) that it increases your own knowledge by changing your own brain.

You could also, as some publishers do, publish solutions to half of your questions. Some textbooks, for example, have solutions to, say, the odd numbered exercises in the backmater.

You might even get an offer from a publisher to do that for other books. Some textbooks, in fact, have the questions provided by other than the author.

But publishing answers is a disservice to other students, not a service.

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    Publishers do provide books with solutions to all exercises - is that for the professors who can't solve them then? – Solar Mike Dec 9 '18 at 13:12
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    @SolarMike, not all publishers do. But a professor who gives an assignment for which he can't provide an answer (and have one in hand before assigning it) isn't doing a good job. My opinion there is that you need to solve it yourself so you have a sense that it is a properly stated exercise (i.e. not impossible or ambiguous) and so that you know where the crux is so that you can answer student questions wisely - giving hints that don't themselves hinder learning. – Buffy Dec 9 '18 at 13:17
  • @SolarMike, it also just occurred to me that one reason that publishers do produce answer guides is to demonstrate that the question actually has an answer. Some questions don't. The first volume of The Art of Computer Programming by Knuth had (intentionally) a number of unsolved problems in its exercises. But sometimes it also happens inadvertently. – Buffy Dec 9 '18 at 15:22
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    well, it is clear some publishers DO publish solutions - some in the back of the book, others in a separate book and others don't publish solutions at all. So, there is no one correct answer... – Solar Mike Dec 9 '18 at 15:30
  • It does seem that this is indeed a bit grey, since solutions for most undergraduate texts do indeed exist either online or published by the author. I think I might do some variation like you suggest (though I'll have a hard time coming up with my own questions), at least for the advanced texts I am studying. As Prof Shor pointed out in the comments, the textbook I have in mind is not usually something an undergrad encounters. I can also just get interesting discussions on the appropriate stack exchange, of course. I do find I prefer being able to check my answers, though. – tmph Dec 11 '18 at 5:38
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I think, if the publisher does not have their own solutions book and some do, that you can do this.

Of course, some professors will be upset as they will have to deal with favorite questions for exams...

It may give you experience and lead you to write more or even, the publisher asking you to write / edit a solutions manual...

  • If a publisher has a solutions key (copyright), you can still write and even publish your own solutions. There is no legal constraint as you are publishing your own words/work. But I question the wisdom as I've said elsewhere on this page. – Buffy Dec 9 '18 at 13:18

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