Academic IAs Subjects

Tips for Mathematics IA

The Mathematics IA allows students to explore specific topics in the broader mathematical context.

There is no “correct” manner for any student to approach the math IA. Every student has different methodologies that they follow in order to complete their IAs, and the process may differ based on the IA topics. However, there are a few methods that help students plan their IAs efficiently. 

In my experience, the best method to approach Mathematics IA is:

  1. Make a list of mathematical concepts you like/would like to explore. 
  2. Decide between pure mathematics or applied mathematics
  3. Look at topics that allow you to connect the concepts you’re interested in to the pure/applied mathematics behind it. (Mind-mapping is really helpful at this stage). 
  4. Shortlist 2-3 topics that seem to have potential and do a little research on each, making short outlines for how your IA will proceed (list the mathematical concepts and approaches that you will be using)
  5. By this stage, you will have a lot more clarity on what topic you’re more comfortable with, so ideally, you would be able to choose one topic. If you’re still confused, try talking to your teachers/mentors for advice. 
  6. Once you have decided a topic, DO NOT start directly with the math, and DO NOT start writing it. Expand upon your rough outline from step 4 and make detailed notes about the mathematical concepts and methods used, your analysis of the math and your aim. Ensure to connect each step to the aim, to achieve a higher score for Criteria D: Reflection. 
  7. Once you have a clear outline, start with the mathematics. At this point, it is the student’s choice whether they want to complete the mathematical calculations first and then type the entire IA, or simultaneously type the mathematical working and the IA together. There is no ‘correct’ approach and it also relies on the nature of the IA topic. So don’t worry if your classmates are already done with typing their IA but you’re still working on the mathematical part of it! 
  8. When you’re done with the math, work on your analysis and simultaneously start organising the IA. All IAs have an introduction paragraph, that acts like a short summary to the contents of the IA, and outlines the inspiration for the topic. The body of the IA has the mathematics and analysis, and the conclusion often has reflective statements as well as ways to extend the exploration. 
  9. Type the first draft. Breath. Do not see it for 2 days. Then look at it again, and make the required changes (if any). 
  10. Be proud of having completed one of the most daunting (yet extremely fun) aspects of the Mathematics curriculum!

The exploration should be approximately 6-12 pages long, including diagrams and graphs, but excluding the bibliography. Students may lose marks if they go over the page limit. However, there may be exceptions depending on the nature of your IA topic, so it is recommended to ask your teacher for more specific advice.

As you can tell (clearly), writing your IA is a lengthy process, so it is best to start early. If you’re a bit behind deadlines, don’t worry. Work with a calm mind and you will be able to get work done with a clear aim in mind. Most importantly, believe in yourself and in your work; it will always reflect positively!


You may also like…

• A guest writer’s post on a study trick that will help you succeed in IB
• Tiffany’s post on her tips for mathematics HL
• Aaryaa’s overview of the Mathematics IA

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