The IB Mathematical Exploration
The biggest change in the IB Mathematics HL and SL syllabuses is the new Internal Assessment, 'The Exploration'. Lorraine Heinrichs, IB workshop leader and curriculum developer, gives her teaching advice and ideas to support you.
I recommend producing and displaying brain maps to help trigger creativity and support topic selection.
The Exploration – a quick background
The Exploration is a new requirement that gives IB students the opportunity to appreciate a wider range of mathematics, as well as apply mathematical concepts to real life situations. It can take many forms, ranging from creating mathematical models to exploring observed phenomena to more abstract open-ended investigations that consider patterns and the formation of general rules. Through the whole process, students should take ownership of their work and draw on attributes of the learner profile.
The Exploration – facts you should know
- Internal Assessment is still a compulsory component for all students taking IB Mathematics
- The Exploration is a standalone piece of work written by the student in an area of mathematics
- Students will be able to submit a draft of the Exploration; you should give written feedback to enable students to improve their work
- The Exploration is an individual piece of work – group work is not an option
- 10 hours of class time should be dedicated to the Exploration process
Suggested Exploration teaching routes
In my experience, the most important role for the teacher is to set out an appropriate timeline for the Exploration process; this will vary from school to school. Internal Assessment should be introduced as early as possible, but the actual Exploration process should not start too early – otherwise students may struggle to identify a suitable topic. As the mathematics in the Exploration corresponds with the level of the course, I recommend prompting possible Exploration ideas as teaching of the course progresses; this will help students get a better handle on the types of topics they could pursue.
When the Exploration process starts in earnest, some teaching time should be set aside to help students understand the assessment criteria, brainstorm ideas and come up with possible titles. I recommend producing and displaying brain maps like this one to help trigger creativity and support topic selection. Choosing a topic is the key area where students may need the most support - try this getting started advice to support your students.
Following topic brainstorming, I suggest giving students about 10 days to come up with a formal proposal for their Exploration title. Students are allowed to submit a first draft to you, for written feedback, but this first draft shouldn’t be too heavily annotated or edited by the teacher. Once the final work is submitted you can annotate the work in more detail and mark the Exploration against the 5 assessment criteria.
Lorraine Heinrichs has been an IB Mathematics teacher and IB Coordinator at Bonn International School for over 14 years, in addition to being an experienced IB workshop leader and curriculum developer. She is the co-author of IB Mathematics Higher Level, developed with the IB.