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It is a big year for International Baccalaureate (IB). First, they announced a syllabus change for Group 5 Mathematics, and then they canceled the exams for graduates of May 2020. While the latter is a ‘once in a lifetime’ scenario, the former is IB’s effort to continuously improve its subjects. This happens once every seven years, wherein IB evaluates one of its subject groups and examines if the way it is being taught is optimal for the changes that the world has gone through over the past seven years. This article focuses on the former.
IB Math is one of the most demanding subject groups in the IB Program. With the emergence of disciplines such as Data Science, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, etc., the field of mathematics has become even more prominent. However, every career path requires math differently. Keeping this in mind, IB has bid farewell to the formerly offered modules, namely IB Math HL, IB Math SL, and IB Math Studies. To make the subject more ‘studentfriendly’ and to increase its practical relevance, International Baccalaureate Program has introduced IB Mathematics Analysis and Approaches (IB Math AA) and IB Mathematics Applications and Interpretations (IB Math AI).
IB Math AA
IB Math Analysis and Approaches (AA) is all about theoretical math. The module keeps analyzing abstract math theories at its foundation. IB Math AA covers topics like advanced calculus and integration to train students in the discipline of pure mathematics. This particular module has been divided into two levels. You already know it! IB Math AA Standard Level (IB Math AA SL) and IB Math AA Higher Level (IB Math AA HL). Although it is difficult to draw parallels between the new and older modules, one can compare IB Math AA SL to current Math SL and IB Math AA HL to current Math HL.
With IB Math AA HL, students would hone their understanding of topics such as the Binomial Theorem, Partial Fractions, De Moivre’s Theorem, the L'hospital rule, etc. These are the few new additions to the syllabus which was previously missing from the topics covered by IB Mathematics HL. Similarly, IB Mathematics AA SL covers new topics such as Simple Deductive Proof, Regression, etc. To better understand the additions of the latest topics, check out this comparison chart.
(If you wish to get into an elaborate explanation of IB Math AA, we recommend checking the official guide provided by IB here. Word of caution: The manual has 94 pages in it. You may want to wait until finishing this article. Perhaps you won't need to check out the guide after all :))
IB Math AI
Have you ever found yourself in a mathematics class, trying to understand complicated formulas, questioning if you will ever use this in real life? Well, your answer is IB Maths Applications and Interpretations (IB Math AI). The module has kept statistics and distribution as its foundation. IB Math AI talks about the practical implementation of mathematical concepts. Once again, the application and interpretation module can be divided into two levels SL and HL. IB Math AI SL is similar to what is currently known as IB Math Studies. It should be noted that IB Math AI HL is unlike any current courses offered now.
IB Math HL will cover log and exponential laws intensively. Furthermore, it will introduce more sophistication with random variables and distributions, also known as Poisson distribution. A long list of topics has been put together to curate IB Math AI HL. You can find this long list here. Now, time for some good news! Since IB is sorting out the most relevant topics, it has eliminated Number sets, currency conversion, logic, and most of the set theory!
Choosing Between Math AA And Math AI And It’s Impact On Your Career
If you’re starting with your IB Diploma Programme journey, you must understand that selecting your DP Mathematics courses is a crucial step to building your career. It is this choice that will influence your eligibility for courses you might want to pursue offered by the top universities worldwide. It thereby becomes very important for you to make a wellinformed choice.
But before smartly picking a DP Mathematics course for your career, you should have a clearer view of what each class offers and what you will have to study once you choose it. And who better to explain that than the IB itself. Head over to their comprehensive article on the New DP Mathematics courses and come back here with a much better view of things!
Now that you are here with all the information you need to make a suitable choice let’s move ahead. We understand how taxing it can get you to surf for specifics of each university on your top 20 list. Worry not! We have done the hard work for you, so all that’s left for you is to make a good decision without spending hours irritably on the net. We bring all the information you need to be consolidated in one place; your onestop guide for choosing a DP Mathematics course.
Before diving into the specifics, here are some general pointers that you must keep in mind:
(The information given below is just a general overview of the matter; to make the final decision, you should do some homework on your end as well since it will affect your future choices)
 The most important thing is to choose a course that interests you. If you are sure about what you wish to pursue in your higher education, pick a DP Mathematics course to help you.
 Also, if you’re unsure about your path after school, the safest bet is to go for a Mathematics course that interests you and would help you shine through.
 If a career in STEM is your calling, choosing an HL course in either Mathematics: Applications and Interpretation or Mathematics: Approaches and Analysis would be beneficial to you
 If you’re interested in Pure mathematics, HL Mathematics: Approaches and Analysis would be the way to go. But if you’re looking forward to a career in Engineering, Economics, or Physical Sciences, HL Mathematics: Applications and Interpretation or HL Mathematics: Approaches and Analysis would be a good choice.
 Likewise, if you’re hoping to tread a Doctoral path in Mathematics (taking it up as a Ph.D. subject in the future), HL Mathematics AA is suitable.
 However, if a career in Social Sciences, Psychology, Business, Design, or Natural Sciences excites you, going with the Mathematics Applications and Interpretation course would be enough.
Now that you have a rough overview of what you should be planning for, we must delve into specifics since most universities have particular requirements which would undoubtedly come in handy while filling out your applications.
The preliminary order of preference of Mathematics courses, followed by a majority of universities, however, is as follows:
 HL Mathematics: Approaches and Analysis
 HL Mathematics: Applications and Interpretation
 SL Mathematics: Approaches and Analysis
 SL Mathematics: Applications and Interpretation

University of British Columbia:

IB Mathematics HL or SL Approaches and Analysis are a requirement for:

All Science Programs

Land and Food Systems, Forestry

Business Programs

Media Studies

Human Kinetics

Bachelor of Kinesiology


Maths AI SL or HL will be accepted for any course which does not require Maths AA as a requirement.


McGill:

For all undergraduate programs which have Maths as a prerequisite, the following courses will be acceptable:

HL Mathematics: Analysis and Approaches

HL Mathematics: Applications and Interpretation

SL Mathematics: Analysis and Approaches


The programs which have Mathematics as a prerequisite requirement are:

Agriculture and Environmental Sciences

Architecture

Bachelor of Arts and Science

Engineering

Human Nutrition

Kinesiology

Nursing

Science


For Management, HL or SL Mathematics Courses are prerequisites.


Cambridge:

All programs with Mathematics as a requirement expect HL Mathematics: Analysis and Approaches to have been opted.


National University of Singapore (NUS):

For all Engineering disciplines  HL Mathematics Analysis and Approaches

For Business Administration  SL Maths AA or HL Maths AI

For Medicine  Mathematics courses not required

For Computer Science Courses  HL Maths AA or a good performance in either SL Maths AA or HL Maths AI


King's College:

For all Mathematics programs, Physics programs, and all Electronic and Biomedical Engineering programs  HL Maths AA

Computer Science Programs  HL Maths AI or HL Maths AA

Economics, Economics and Management, Accounting and Finance  HL Maths AA or HL Maths AI

Psychology programs  HL Maths AA or HL Maths AI

Chemistry programs  HL Maths AA or HL Maths AI


Sussex:

For subjects related to Mathematics, Engineering, and Physics, either of the HL Maths courses is accepted.

All other courses or streams do not have a requirement of a level.


Oxford:

They accept applications of students who have opted for either HL Mathematics AA or HL Mathematics AI.


Georgia Tech:

They accept both levels for Maths and Science courses but encourage Higher Levels.


London School of Economics:

For programs like BSc Management, Alevel Maths is the requirement, so both DP Maths streams will be acceptable.

Programs that prefer Further Maths A level strongly would encourage Maths AA but will accept both.

Where Further Maths A level is a requirement, Mathematics: Approaches and Analysis will become a requirement.


Queen Mary University London :

HL Maths Applications and Interpretation and HL Maths Approaches and Analysis will be accepted.

This was a small list of universities, along with their program subjects’ prerequisites which will give you a deep insight into what colleges around the globe are looking for. To get a better idea, go to your dream varsity’s website and decide accordingly. We hope this information will be beneficial in picking a Maths level and that you will choose a course that challenges you and helps you realize your dream career.
Personal tip: Even if you have decided to study business, data science is one of those fields whose basic knowledge will serve you well!
The New Study Structure
Specific topics are required for both Math AA and Math AI. These topics fall under the core concepts and will be covered in the first 60 hours of the course. These core topics include basic mathematical concepts. It should also be noted that apart from the core topics, certain concepts are taught in both the branches of Maths offered by IB. However, how these concepts are approached depends on whether you have opted for Math AA or Math AI. In other words, the common topics will be approached via a theoretical lens if a student is studying it as an AA topic. The same issue will be taught with an 'implementation' mindset if it is being learned in an AI class.
Below is a Venn diagram that helps you visualize the course structure. If you are still determining your bachelor's degree, we recommend you take Math AA SL initially and switch to either a higher (i.e., Math AA HL) or drop down a level (i.e., Math AI HL). Regardless of your decision, you will only have to cover up a little study material if you switch within the first 60 hours of the course. Choosing the Standard Level in either of the offered modules will have you dedicate 150 hours towards the subject, whereas opting for Higher Level requires you to spend 240 hours on the subject. If the students opt for Standard Level for either of the modules, they would have to take two written exams, whereas taking the higher Level of Math AA or Math AI requires students to take three written papers.
Now, let’s talk about our biggest ally, shall we? The Graphic Display Calculator (GDC). If you opt for Maths AI, then you will be allowed to use GCD in all of your papers (regardless of your level) but taking Maths AA means that you need to do your Paper 1 without the help of a GDC.
The Choosing Process
Yes, we know this is a lot to digest. We decided to initiate your thinking process and help you decide. For starters, we want to ensure that you understand the courses’ hierarchical structure in terms of difficulty.
From The Most Difficult To Comparatively Easy, We Have

Math AA HL

Math AA SL

Math AI HL

Math AI SL
If you adore math and want to make it a significant college subject, then you should go all in and choose Math AA HL. It might sound a little scary, but you will be able to ace it, provided you find the right help and resources. If you are someone who resents math, then Math AI SL is your answer. Most students need clarification on choosing Math AI HL and Math AA SL. So here's how to think about it. If you are solely interested in the practical implementation of math and don't care about the theories, then opt for Math AI HL. It will push you towards career paths such as Business, Finance, Competitive Intelligence, etc. But if you want to know the 'how' behind formulas, we recommend you take Math AA SL. Doing so will equip you for careers like Engineering, Computer Science, etc.
Regardless of what module you choose, you will need its formula booklet. Check out the updated formula booklet for IB Math AA here. And access the IB Math AI formula booklet here.
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