This blog post is designed to be used as a basic guide to attaining a higher maths IA mark. Do note that as the potential topics for maths IA’s are so wide and that each topic of maths would be approached differently, this blog post will provide more general advice as opposed to necessary components of each IA; which can be otherwise be discerned from the IA marking criteria. Our tutor achieved full marks for his HL maths IA, 20/20, and hope that his personal experience can assist you when writing up your final IB maths IA.
1: Find a topic you genuinely enjoy
The typical, clichéd piece of advice; find a topic you actually enjoy. In my opinion, this applies to the maths IA more than almost any other IA or assignment (apart from the EE), as a great deal of time will have to be spent on it to achieve a high mark. The IA will definitely be tedious in terms of formatting and working out and so on, especially with maths studies IA which will typically involve statistics, and so it is essential that you don’t bore yourself too much and become demotivated.
When referring to a “topic” you actually enjoy, however, I don’t just mean the subject, e.g. an IA based on your favourite sport, but also on the maths involved. While maths studies IA’s will usually be statistics-based as mentioned, there is much more variety in SL and HL IA’s. Students should pick their favourite maths topic, or at the very least one that they don’t particularly dislike, so that again the IA doesn’t become too tedious and boring. This is of extra importance for SL and HL IA’s, in which “Personal Engagement” is one of the criterion.
2: Meet the criteria
This brings me to my next point, which seems obvious but can be so easily overlooked; simply, meet the IB’s marking criteria. It is absolutely imperative that students work with the marking criteria next to them, constantly comparing their work to the qualifiers described in the criteria and making sure that these qualifiers are met. It is usually very helpful to base your IA off of the ‘full marks’ qualifier for each criterion, and then compare this to the one below to see exactly what is required for the extra mark.
Many of the criteria are relatively vague and based on marker’s interpretations, and so it is necessary to fulfil the ones that are measurable and quantitative in the chance that you have a harsh marker for the subjective criteria. For example, it is much more difficult to demonstrate personal engagement than to simply have the correct notation and terminology, or to have a correctly formatted bibliography.
3: Structure your IA effectively
Personally, one aspect of maths IA’s that I consider highly important is structure. In terms of having a good structure, I mean that the IA should be easy to follow and separated into small sections, each with an obvious purpose - for example: Introduction, Raw Data, Processing, and so on. Having an effective, organised and coherent structure helps both markers to understand and follow your IA (therefore being more inclined to give it a higher mark) as well as meet some of the criteria.
In maths studies, some of the criteria even include “introduction” and “structure and communication”, and so obviously having a clear-cut structure will allow for higher marks. Moreover, segmenting maths studies IA’s also facilitates higher marks in the “interpretation of results” criteria; simply interpret your results after every section, as opposed to one long paragraph at the end.
Similarly in maths SL and HL, having a well-structured IA aids the “communication” criterion, as well as “personal engagement”; again, simply reflect at the end of each section as opposed to one long paragraph at the end. I personally constantly reminded myself to do this, and believe that it is a major factor as to why I achieved full marks for the personal engagement criteria.
4: Read over your IA, and have someone else proofread over it too
The maths IA can be extremely laborious, whether it be the amount of raw data and processing necessary for maths studies or the amount of equations to type out and notation to fix for maths SL and HL. As such, it is very easy to simply make a careless mistake on terminology or notation or to miss a digit in a number. Therefore, students should read over their IA and what they are typing constantly, as well as having someone else read over it. The way I look at it, the more people who proofread your assignment for these small errors, the less likely you are to submit a final assessment riddled with such errors.
I would advise asking someone more experienced at maths to read over it (i.e. a tutor, mentor, high-achieving friend or lecturer) so that they can recognise more notation and terminology errors, as well as discovering potential errors.
5: Start ASAP!
Finally, with all that in mind, start the maths IA as soon as possible. Some assignments, such as an English essay or written assignment can, if need be, be written several days before a deadline. I do not believe that this is possible to do this and achieve high marks in a maths IA. There is simply too much to do, i.e. finding raw data and processing it for maths studies or solving equations and then typing all of them in SL and HL, reading over your IA for notation and terminology and asking a friend to read over it also, creating graphs, fixing your structure, and so on. The list is endless and for this reason, I would highly recommend to start as early as possible.
For specific guidance, tailored advice and high quality proofreading to lock in a grade 7, don't hesitate to contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) or book a session with our highly qualified tutors who can help you excel in the modern syllabus