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Exploring the changes to the DP Mathematics course structure

The new DP Mathematics syllabus will come into effect in September 2019 - explore the key changes here.


There is a new DP Mathematics curriculum, for first assessment in 2021. This guide will help you to understand the changes to the syllabus, and give you a taste of the latest Oxford resources that have been developed in cooperation with the IB to fully support you in delivering the new course.

Why is the course structure changing?

Critical thinking in mathematics allows students to understand and analyze specialized information, use relevant mathematics in both familiar and unfamiliar situations, communicate logically and competently, and understand the relevance of technology to arrive at the best solutions. These skills are becoming increasingly important and sought after in the 21st century, by both employers and universities.

Changes have been made to the mathematics group subjects to:

• Reflect the changing needs of universities and the world of work
• Offer a greater choice for students
• Provide alignment and parity of mathematics within the DP
• Increase the emphasis on the use of technology
• Respond to the low uptake of Mathematics HL within the DP

These changes are necessary to ensure that DP Mathematics continues to be relevant and rigorous, and at the same time meets the demands made of students from 2019 until 2027. The changes also support students in developing the following mathematical skills:

• Analysis
• Abstraction and generalization
• Risk awareness
• Statistical literacy
• Algorithmic thinking
• Inquiry and modelling

What are the new DP mathematics courses?

Two mathematics subjects have been designed, each offered at both SL and HL. They are Mathematics: analysis and approaches and Mathematics: applications and interpretation.

Mathematics: analysis and approaches

Mathematics can be described as having two facets. One facet is driven by abstract concepts and generalizations that are linked to form new ideas, which may not have any immediate application in the real world. This approach to mathematics is built on axioms, and is presented in the form of conjectures and logical theoretical arguments to form theorems. We live in a world of innovation which is often dependent on this deep understanding of mathematics and analytical expertise.

Mathematics: analysis and approaches

follows this approach. The course covers topics that are seen as necessary for further study of mathematics, and includes the study of functions, trigonometry and calculus, as well as topics that investigate patterns, look for conjectures, and develop proofs, for example, direct proof at SL, and proof by contradiction and by induction at HL.

Mathematics: applications and interpretation

The other side of mathematics is based on describing the real world and solving practical problems. It is often carried out within the context of other disciplines. Mathematics is used as a language and a tool to help us explore the world around us and beyond. Trends are analyzed, predictions are made, and relationships are explored. In a data- and technology-rich world, skills such as modelling and prediction are increasingly becoming more important.

Mathematics: applications and interpretation

follows this approach, and includes topics that are traditionally part of pre-university mathematics courses, such as statistics and calculus. The course makes extensive use of technology to allow students to explore data, develop models and make predictions, often within the context of a practical problem.

Although these two different approaches to the discipline may seem distinct, there are often deep connections between the two.

Maths CG image 1

How are the new courses structured?

• The SL is a subset of the HL for both courses.
• Each topic begins with SL content that is common to both Mathematics: analysis and approaches and Mathematics: applications and interpretation. This is referred to as common content and is clearly marked on the syllabus.
• The SL content is followed by the additional topics that are covered in HL only.

Mathematics image 2 CG

What will students gain from the new courses?

Both courses will help students to:

Maths CG image 3

This will be achieved through conceptual understanding and ATL.

Conceptual understanding

Conceptual understanding is in the foreground of learning mathematics. Concepts represent the vehicle for students’ curiosity and inquiry for understanding the essence of mathematics. They help students and teachers to scaffold learning, leading to an understanding of more complex topics.

For mathematics, 12 fundamental concepts have been identified that support conceptual understanding and help to organize and scaffold teaching and learning.

They are: approximation, change, equivalence, generalization, modelling, patterns, quantity, relationships, representation, space, systems and validity.

These 12 concepts, identified to promote deep learning, relate with varying emphasis to each of the five topics in both courses, namely:

• Number and algebra
• Functions
• Geometry and trigonometry 
• Statistics and probability
• Calculus


Approaches to teaching and learning in the Diploma Programme are tools that help students’ understanding by encouraging the use of skills, strategies and attitudes that promote learning. Students in a mathematics class should be encouraged to use strategies that stimulate critical thinking and problem solving skills through inquiry and modelling.

Below are two cycles that represent inquiry and modelling in DP Mathematics:

Maths CG image 4

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Oxford IB Diploma Programme: IB Mathematics: analysis and approaches, Higher Level, Print and Enhanced Online Course Book Pack

Oxford IB Diploma Programme: IB Mathematics: analysis and approaches, Higher Level, Print and Enhanced Online Course Book Pack

Author Marlene Torres Skoumal, Author Rose Harrison, Author Josip Harcet, Author Jennifer Chang Wathall, and Author Lorraine Heinrichs

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Pack | 21/03/2019

Price:  £57.99 +VAT


Lorraine Heinrichs

Lorraine Heinrichs

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