Academic EE

How to Choose an EE Topic (Mathematics)

The Extended Essay is undoubtedly one of the most feared components of the IB program. A 4,000 word research paper can, in fact, seem daunting to those who have only written 500-1000 word essays. Therefore, students should choose a topic that they can not only find sources for, but are also passionate about it.

Mathematics Extended Essays are rare — of the 87,519 Extended Essays submitted in the 2020 May Examination Session only 2,454 were done over Mathematics (2.8%) (IB Statistical Bulletin 2020). Despite the rarity, I chose to write a Mathematics EE because maths is something that fascinates me. To many students, Mathematics EEs sound scary and barely consider writing one. There were many people that told me I was insane and that it was impossible. In the end, I put in the work to make it happen. 

I chose to write my paper on Game Theory and my research question was: “To what extent does Game Theory play a role in Modern Warfare?” 

I found this topic not unlike the way students writing History EEs find their own specific topics. Just as history has countless events in which one can write about, Mathematics is similar with its various branches. I chose a branch that interested me (Game Theory) and used it to solve a real-world problem (Modern Warfare). My economics teacher actually suggested this idea.  They said that, while Game Theory is primarily used in economics, it has numerous applications to maths when discussed alongside warfare. This qualified my essay as a Category 1 Mathematics Extended Essay, which is a paper that discusses “the applicability of mathematics to solve both real and abstract problems” (p. 96, IB Extended Essay Guide). 

Writing the essay is where, I admit, it got challenging. During the process I had no peers to help me as only a few others had chosen a Mathematics EE, but none of their topics related to mine. Fortunately, my mentor was extremely helpful and I was able to find several books at my local university that were very useful.

Mathematics Extended Essays are bizarre in many ways as things such as word count, varied sentence structure, and high vocabulary do not matter. However, it should be noted that effective communication is key even if that’s done through mathematical expressions. Despite these challenges, I strongly believe that Mathematics EEs are doable, and more people would do them if there was not such a negative stigma about them. I encourage all future IB sessions to consider doing one as the feeling when you have finished is unlike any other. The pride and satisfaction I felt knowing that I took the path less travelled and still found success is something that I hope all future IB students will experience.


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