From the Editorial Team

12th September 2022

The International Baccalaureate allows students to take subjects at Higher Level (HL) or Standard Level (SL). In particular, students choosing to undertake the IB curriculum need to decide whether to take the Mathematics subject at HL or SL. A major component of the IB curriculum for Mathematics is the written report titled the “Math Exploration”.

In both the HL and SL curriculum, there is a Math Exploration which students must write. The Math Exploration consists of an original report where students must choose a topic of interest, undertake research on the topic, solve the problem presented in the thesis statement and formulate a conclusion. The Math Exploration will contain workings in a demonstration of the solving of the problem in the thesis statement and is not purely theoretical.

Furthermore, a critical aspect of the Math Exploration is an explanation as to why the student has chosen the topic. This section requires creativity as the answer that “I chose this topic to finish my Math Exploration” is unacceptable. The student must reach further and explain the underlying implications of the Math Exploration in the real world.

An example of a Math Exploration topic is the exploration of how encryption keys are created and decrypted by the recipient using a formula. A student would need to explain his/her interest in encryption keys and the current situation where hacking into personal data is becoming increasingly common. As such, more complex encryption keys are required to keep people’s data safe. The student would need to demonstrate how encryption keys are created and then decoded upon reaching the intended recipient of the data, and conclude that as time passes and computers get more and more sophisticated, more complex formulas are needed to encrypt and decrypt pieces of data.

Turning to the subject of this article, tuition could assist in the choosing of a topic and the explanation in the Math Exploration as the tutor would have a macro view of Mathematics as a whole and would be able to recommend good ideas for the student to undertake. As tutors will have a university-level knowledge of the subject, they would be able to assist the student in where to look during the research process and tidy up the workings used in the proving of the thesis statement. A tutor could help the student craft the section on why the student is interested in a particular topic by teaching the student about the real-life implications and uses of a particular formula or area of Mathematics.

As the IB curriculum requires independent research, some may wonder about the effectiveness of tutors in crafting these written assignments as tutors are usually found to help students drill with exam questions. The role of a tutor as a guide in the field of Mathematics to undertake research is perhaps, less thought of. However, IB tutors must assist students in writing such independent research assignments if they require help, as often, such writing assignments are new to students who have not experienced the Integrated Programme (IP) which prepares students for the IB programme. Students who have undertaken O Levels are accustomed to preparing for a major exam using past questions and have a lot to learn about writing a report and conducting research.

As such, tuition centres preparing their students for the IB programme ought to make the necessary arrangements for their tutors to assist their students in crafting a well-researched and succinct Math Exploration.