IB Math Exploration and the top 6 mistakes made

29 Apr 2021
  1. Excessive writing in IB Math Exploration.

    The IB Mathematics SL and Mathematics HL guides state that 6–12 pages should be appropriate for IB Math Explorations. Examiners are looking out for writing that is concise and to the point.

    Some students think they can get a higher score by writing longer essays. This is often not the case as they end up including a lot of irrelevant content. Students should look out for repetitive working and content. The excessive writing and working for a more succinct report should be removed.

  2. Missing citations.

    Many students neglect to cite the sources where they have obtained their material. This amounts to plagiarism and may be penalized if discovered by examiners. Always credit the original authors if significant amounts of material are taken from their work.

  3. Using complicated Math formula just to raise the level of Math.

    Some students copy sophisticated Math from journals into their exploration without having a real understanding of the Math that was used. Examiners can easily tell where students lack knowledge on the subject if the explanations are superficial. It is better to choose a Math topic that you truly understand and develop your ideas fully.

  4. Not labelling tables and graphs.

    This Venn diagram tells us nothingA common mistake students make is having tables and graphs that are missing headings or labels. If examiners have to struggle or guess what these graphs are trying to demonstrate, marks will be deducted. Students should also make a clear reference to these tables and graphs in their writings, and discuss the trends they are demonstrating.

  5. Insufficient research.

    Some of the Math explorations were problems copied directly from textbooks or Wikipedia. These explorations lack depth and show that the students have not reflected deeply or done enough research on their topic.

    According to the IB subject guide, students often referred to websites such as Khan academy and Numberphile for Math Internal Assessment ideas. Most of these students did not do particularly well as they often reproduced content from these websites in their IAs.

  6. Lack of explanation of calculator working

    This is a common mistake made by students. The students obtained the expression of the mathematical model without an in-depth explanation of the derivation of the expression.


    IB Math Internal AssessmentFor example, modelling of musical notes was one of the more popular IA topics chosen by students. Many students just plotted the function using their calculator and did not provide any step by step explanation on how the function determined. These students tend to end up with mediocre scores.

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