IBDP Mathematics AA & AI – What is the Difference?


International Baccalaureate (IB) is a global leader in international education – developing inquiring, knowledgeable, confident, and caring young people. IB delivers a robust continuum of student-centric learning for students aged 3-19 years.

IB Diploma Program (IBDP) is a future-ready program that enables children to excel at their careers and meaningful lives and is curated for children in the age group 16-19 years.


1. What is the Difference Between Mathematics AA and Mathematics AI?
2. What to Choose – an AA Course or an AI Course?

Established in 1968, the IBDP was the first program offered. It is an academically challenging and balanced program of education with final examinations that prepares students for success at university and life beyond. The students of IBDP take up six subjects, one each from the six subject groups – Arts subject group is elective and can be substituted with any one of the other five groups.

Further, each subject opted for is offered at two levels – Standard Level (SL) and Higher Level (HL). Out of the six subjects chosen, three or four are to be selected at the HL and the remaining at the SL. In addition to the disciplinary and interdisciplinary studies, the DP program also comprises three mandatory core elements.

  • Theory of Knowledge – which enables the students’ critical capacity to analyze, connect and explore possibilities.
  • Extended Essay – fosters high-level research and writing skills
  • Creativity, Activity, and Service – encourages the students to participate in a range of voluntary and community activities

IB DP Mathematics subject courses serve to accommodate a range of needs, interests and abilities of the students, and to fulfil the requirements of various university and career aspirations.

The course aims to

  • Develop mathematical knowledge, concepts, and principles
  • Develop logical, critical, and creative thinking
  • Enhance the students’ power of abstraction and generalization

The IB DP Mathematics had a major revamp in the year 2019 and with the first assessment done in 2021. The old four courses offered – Studies, SL, HL and Further Mathematics were replaced by two routes that can be opted for at the SL or HL. They are

  • Mathematics – Analysis and Approaches (AA)SL
  • Mathematics – Analysis and Approaches (AA) HL
  • Mathematics – Applications and Interpretation (AI) SL
  • Mathematics – Applications and Interpretation (AI) HL

The AA courses are similar to the earlier versions of SL and HL, whereby the students develop a deep understanding of the mathematical concepts and solve both real and theoretical problems often without the use of technology.

The AI courses help in harnessing the abilities of the students to use the power of technology to solve real and theoretical problems.

The aims of the mathematics courses enable the students to

  • Kindle the curiosity and enjoyment of mathematics
  • Enhance the understanding of mathematical concepts, principles, and nature of mathematics
  • Articulate mathematics clearly and appropriately in a range of contexts
  • Appreciate how development in technology and mathematics influence each other
  • Appreciate the contribution of mathematics to other disciplines
  • Develop the ability to reflect critically on their own work and others’ work too
  • Express their understanding of mathematics either independently or collaboratively


What is the Difference Between Mathematics AA and Mathematics AI?

1. Both the courses share the same topics, yet

The aim of the Mathematics AA is to focus on the concepts of the subject and enables the students to discover the abstract theories which form the basis of all calculations

The aim of the Mathematics AI is about the practical application of those theories and concepts in the real world – Statistics and Distribution form the basic components of this course

2. The table shows the difference in the similarity with the earlier courses and who can opt for the difference courses offered.

Applications and Interpretation (AI) Analysis and Approaches (AA)
Standard Level High Level Standard Level High Level
Like Old Math studies, Unlike Old Courses Like Old Math SL Like Old Math HL
Who should opt for this?
Students who are not strong in math and do not want to pursue a math-based stream after high school Students who are strong in math and enjoy doing it but do not plan on a math-based stream after high school Students who are moderately good at math and have plans of a math-based stream after high school Students who are very strong in math and want to opt for the math-based course after high school


3. Both the mathematics AA and AI assessment models require you to take 3 papers which are externally assessed, the difference being that calculators are not allowed in the Paper 1 and allowed for the Paper 2 and Paper 3 for the AA course, whereas for the AI course calculators are allowed for all the three Papers

4. Depending on what streams the students want to pursue in their university-level plays an important role in opting between AA and AI at the DP level. If the student wants to pursue Economics, Mathematics, Physical Sciences, or Engineering, at the university level, then the best option at the DP level would be Mathematics AA. On the other hand, if the student wants to pursue Business, Psychology, Natural Sciences, or Social Sciences, then the option would be Mathematics AI.

5. There is a difference in the teaching hours on each component of the two courses

The durations are in hours

Component Name AA SL AI SL AA HL AI HL
Number and Algebra 19 16 29 39
Functions 21 31 32 42
Geometry and Trigonometry 25 18 51 46
Statistics and Probability 27 39 33 52
Calculus 28 19 55 41

The table clearly shows that the AA course focusses on the components – Number and Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry, and Calculus whereas the AI course focusses on the other two Functions, and Statistics and Probability.


What to Choose – an AA Course or an AI Course?

This depends on a lot of parameters, and these are important to consider when the students are making a choice between the two courses. Most importantly the student’s performance and attitude in studying mathematics, his individual strengths and weaknesses in the individual components offered, and finally his plan of pursuing the type stream – either involving mathematics or not – at the university level. The students should also consult their teachers, friends, and family before making the right choice.


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What is the difference between IBDP Mathematics AA and AI?

IBDP Mathematics AA is more advanced and rigorous than AI, covering more advanced mathematical concepts and requiring a higher level of mathematical aptitude. AI, on the other hand, is designed to be more approachable and accessible to students with varying mathematical backgrounds.

Which one is more challenging – AA or AI?

AA is generally considered to be more challenging than AI, as it covers more advanced mathematical concepts and requires a higher level of mathematical aptitude.

What topics are covered in Mathematics AA?

Mathematics AA covers topics such as calculus, functions, geometry, vectors, and probability, among others. It goes into more depth and complexity in these areas than AI.

Can I switch from AA to AI or vice versa?

It is possible to switch from AA to AI or vice versa, but it’s important to consider the timing and potential impact on your academic progress. Consult with your academic advisor or teacher before making a switch.

What resources are available to help me succeed in Mathematics AA or AI?

There are many resources available to help you succeed in Mathematics AA or AI, including textbooks, online study resources, practice exams, and tutoring services. You can also seek help from your teachers or academic advisors.

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