Top Tips

Helpful advice for teaching Maths HL and/or Maths SL

(aka, Tim's Top Tips)

1.   Read the subject report for your course(s) from the most recent exam session; and from other exam sessions back to and including ones for the May 2008 exam session (when the exam structure changed to its current format). About 4 months after an exam session (May and November), the IB publishes a subject report for each course - one for each of the two time zone versions (TZ1 & TZ2) of the exams. The subject report is written by the subject's chief examiner and senior examiners and includes helpful feedback about the external assessment and internal assessment components. For each component (IA, Paper 1, Paper 2 and Paper 3 for HL) there is a section entitled "Recommendations and guidance for the teaching of future candidates". The suggestions made in this section are particularly helpful.

2.   Read the course subject guide (first examinations in 2014) for your course (HL or SL).  Read the entire subject guide.  Of course, it is very important to pay particular attention to the syllabus content section.  The subject guide is intended only for teachers and you should not share the document with students or parents.  However, there are two appendices at the end of the subject guide which you should copy and share with your students.  These are the Glossary of Command Terms and the Notation List - both of which are very helpful resources for students.  They should read through both of them and you should refer to them when appropriate.

3.   Write a course plan which lays out a chronological schedule of when you will teach particular syllabus content (or 'teaching units'). It is not expected that you will be able to keep exactly to this schedule. However, by setting some kind of targets - and checking your progress against them from time to time - will assist you in keeping a pace that will allow you to cover the entire syllabus while also allowing sufficient time for the internal assessment component, the mock exam (and preparation for it) and ample review after all of the syllabus content has been covered. Go here for blank course plans (HL & SL).

4.   Go to a workshop. Attending a workshop for Maths SL or Maths HL will give you a great opportunity to gain some useful guidance and also give you a chance to establish connections and share with other teachers who are at a similar stage in developing their skills and practices for teaching IB mathematics. Category 1 workshops are for teachers who are new or relatively new to the IB mathematics; and category 2 workshops are for teachers who have least a couple of years experience teaching IB maths.  Relevant InThinking professional development workshops are listed on the left side of this site's home page.

5.   Visit the Online Curriculum Centre (OCC) regularly in order to access important information and retrieve essential documents relevant to a specific course and/or the entire IB Diploma Programme (DP).  DP Coordinator Notes (issued 4 times per year in March, May, September & November) are best accessed via the OCC and are essential reading for all IBDP teachers.  There is a plethora of documents available on the OCC - much of which are absolutely essential to have access to - but there is also access to a teacher forum and teacher resource exchange on each course's page on the OCC which allow an interesting and (sometimes) invigorating exchange of questions, answers, ideas and materials.

6.   Thoroughly read the Internal Assessment (IA) Teacher Support Material (TSM) on the OCC.  This support material for the 'new' internal assessment component (the Exploration) is only available as an HTML file - so not so easy to print off and read as a paper document.  This TSM includes nine sample student Explorations that have been marked by an Examiner with a document containing the Examiner's score for each criteria along with brief comments.  It has not been indicated whether each of the nine was completed by an HL or an SL student.  Examiner's scores have been given for both HL and SL.

7.   Plan ahead for the Mock Exam that your students will take during the 2nd year of the course. A common practice is to use a past exam - often the most recent one - as a mock exam. However, over the past few years past exams have become easily accessible over the internet so it's a bit of a gamble to use a past exam as a mock exam because there is a reasonable chance that your students have already worked through it. There are other options. One option is to write your own mock exam which is very time-consuming. A more realistic option is to select appropriate questions from several different past IB exams. This is most easily accomplished by using the IB's Questionbank software. As a subscriber to this site you also have the option of using one of the mock exams created by the authors of this site that have all original questions. See these mock exams here.

8.   Give your students regular review quizzes - especially during the 2nd year of the course. I've found that administering regular short quizzes - e.g. once every 2 weeks - is a very effective way to review important course material. It also is very good practice for getting students to work at an efficient pace.

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