IBDP Mathematics: Curriculum, Assessment of Application & Interpretation


The International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP), mostly called the IB, is a course that students can take before they leave school to enter universities. There are other IB Programs: primary years, middle school years, and career preparation.

The program is organized and administered by the International Baccalaureate Organization and then taught independently at schools. It is the discretion of the schools to offer IB programs alongside other courses or offer IB as the whole framework.

In an IB classroom, children help navigate their own learning by asking questions that may redirect the lessons. So, there are no specific textbooks, or a syllabus followed. Only a framework is provided, enabling the teachers to be creative in their classroom sessions. The IB Diploma program is the most popular of the four programs. This program targets students in the age group of 16-19 years. The curriculum is covered over 2 years and is recognized and respected by leading universities across the world.


Components of the IB DP Program

First Component – Six Subject Areas

Each area has various courses within them:

  •  Language and Literature
  •  Language Acquisition
  •  Individuals and Societies
  •  Sciences
  •  Mathematics
  •  The Arts

Further each subject has two levels – Standard level (SL) and Higher level (HL). HL courses are more challenging – not necessarily making them scary or intimidating. Students need to choose three/four subjects at the HL and the remaining at the SL to successfully earn the diploma.


Second Component – Core Elements

  • Theory of Knowledge (TOK)– Students reflect on the nature of knowledge
  • Extended Essay (EE) – 4000- word essay, which is independent, self-directed research
  • Creative, Activity, Service (CAS) – Though not graded, participation and contribution is mandatory


Mathematics as One of the Academic Areas

The IB DP mathematics has four courses, keeping in mind that different students have different abilities, interests, and goals. They are

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

The earlier version of the academic subject – Mathematics had two levels and three models as given below. The levels were designed considering the differing abilities of different students.

  • Mathematics at Standard Level (Math SL)
  • Mathematics at High Level (Math HL)
  • Math Studies

But now there has been a change in the format. The first assessment for the changed version took place in the year 2021.


Changes in the IB Mathematics Syllabus

Every seven years, IB reviews its courses to look for the scope of improvement and modernization targeting a diverse body of students. The new course offers four choices to its students – Two each from the SL and HL.

Let us explore the parameters the students need to consider while making a choice from these four-course options.

  1. Individual abilities
  2. Type of mathematics they are comfortable with
  3. Areas of mathematics that they are passionate about and that interest them
  4. Their choices in the Diploma program or Career-related program
  5. What area of mathematics they would want to pursue later in the education journey
  6. What their career plans are

The new version of the Mathematics Syllabus Aligns itself perfectly along with the parameters mentioned.

Four courses Similarity with old version Who should opt for this
Applications and Interpretation – SL Like Old Math Studies Students not very strong in the subject and do not want to pursue a math stream after high school
Applications and Interpretation – HL Unlike Old courses Students strong in math, but not wanting to pursue a math stream after school
Analysis and Approaches – SL Like Old Math SL Students who are moderately good in math and plan to pursue a math stream after school
Analysis and Approaches – HL Like Old Math HL Students who are very good in math and plan a math-based stream after school


Aims of the DP Mathematics – Applications and Interpretation

The aims are majorly to enable the students to:

  • Kindle the curiosity and enjoyment of mathematics
  • Understand the concepts, principles, and nature of mathematics
  • Communicate mathematics clearly, concisely, and confidently in various contexts
  • Enhance the creative and logical thinking and implement them in solving problems
  • Appreciate how developments in technology and mathematics influence each other
  • Appreciate the contribution of mathematics to other disciplines
  • Improve the ability to reflect on their own work and on the others’ work
  • Independently and collaboratively extend their understating of mathematics


Curriculum Model Overview

Mathematics AA and Mathematics AI share 60 hours of common SL content,

Syllabus Component Recommended Teaching hours
Number and Algebra 19 39
Functions 21 32
Geometry and Trigonometry 25 51
Statistics and Probability 27 33
Calculus 28 55
Exploration of an area of Mathematics 30 30
Total teaching hours 150 240


Assessment Objectives

The assessment objectives for the Mathematics Application and Interpretation aim at enhancing the students’ skills to:

  • Recall, select and use their knowledge of mathematical facts, concepts and techniques and use them in a variety of familiar and unfamiliar contexts
  • Recall, select and use their knowledge of mathematical skills, results, and models in both abstract and real-world contexts to solve problems
  • Translate realistic contexts into mathematics, comment on the context, draw or sketch mathematical diagrams or graphs both on paper and using technology, record solutions, methods and conclusions using standardized notations
  • Use technology accurately, appropriately, and efficiently both to explore new ideas and to solve problems
  • Construct mathematical arguments using precise statement, logical deduction, and inference and by manipulation of mathematical expressions
  • Organize and analyze information, make conjectures, and draw conclusions to investigate situations both abstract and real world


Assessment at a Glance

Type of assessment Format of assessment Time Duration SL Time Duration HL Weighting of final grades Weighting of final grades
Paper 1 Technology allowed Compulsory short-response questions 1.5 hours 2 hours 40% 30%
Paper 2 Technology allowed Compulsory extended-response questions 1.5 hours 2 hours 40% 30%
Paper 3 Technology allowed     Two compulsory extended-response problem solving questions   1 hour   20%
Exploration   15 hours 15 hours 20% 20%

The Exploration is an integral part of the course and its assessment and is mandatory for both the SL and the HL students. It helps in the application of skills and knowledge, and to pursue personal interests without time limitations and other challenges in written examinations.


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What is IB DP mathematics application and interpretation?

The IB DP Mathematics: Applications and Interpretation course acknowledges the expanding impact of technology and mathematics across a wide range of fields in a world with lots of data.

Should I take math AA or AI?

AA is for you if you like math and are curious about the “why” behind the theories. Choose AI if you want to understand how to apply math rather than the theory behind it.

Do universities prefer IB math AA or AI?

Most institutions would nevertheless prefer that you have Math AA, either at SL or HL if you intend to follow a moderately math-related course, such as economics or sciences.

How hard is IB math AI HL?

IB HL enrollment is exceptionally low, with only 14% of IB students. Even more surprisingly, only 2-4 levels will be awarded to half of this group. At the top end, you probably need arithmetic skills that place you in the top 3.5% of all IB students worldwide to earn a level 6 or 7 at HL.

Is math AA or AI better for engineering?

Students interested in engineering, physical sciences, economics, and mathematics should take the math AA course. Students interested in business, engineering statistics, social sciences, natural sciences, medicine, some economics, psychology, and design should study math AI.

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