Boost Your Mathematics IA: Tips and Advice

For your Mathematics Internal Assessment, you have the opportunity to dive into a fascinating area of mathematics that truly interests you. This piece of written work is worth 20 marks and contributes to 20% of your total grade. Don’t be intimidated! With the right approach and structure, you can excel in this assessment. In this article, we will guide you through the process, from choosing a topic to presenting your findings.

Structure and Topic Selection

The Mathematics Internal Assessment, or Maths IA, carries significant weight in your overall grade for Maths studies, SL, and HL. According to the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO), the IA should be 6-12 pages in length and demonstrate mathematical difficulty equivalent to your course level. While you can incorporate concepts from the IB maths syllabus, consider looking beyond it for inspiration.

To choose a topic, you can explore optional modules that you don’t cover in your course, especially if you’re at the Higher Level. Delve into areas that interest you and think about how mathematics can be applied to them. For instance, I chose to investigate the mathematical principles behind the popular bottle flip trend. Selecting a personal topic allows you to shine in the personal engagement criteria, which we’ll discuss further below.

A recommended structure for your IA includes the following sections:

Introduction: Provide the background of your chosen topic, highlighting opportunities for mathematical exploration.

Rationale: Explain why you chose this topic, connecting it to the introduction. Clearly state your aims and provide evidence supporting your personal engagement.

Aim: Define what you want to achieve from your exploration. Make sure your aims are clear, focused, and supported by your research.

Main Body: This is where you delve into the mathematics. Explore different perspectives on the problem and discuss their respective merits and outcomes.

Conclusion: Summarize what you’ve learned, acknowledge any limitations, and identify areas for further research and application.

While this structure works well for many, remember that the IBO encourages innovation. If you believe there’s a better approach that showcases your personal engagement, don’t hesitate to explore it.

Marking Criteria

To succeed in your Maths IA, it’s essential to understand the marking criteria. The IA is assessed based on five categories, which we’ll break down below:

Communication (4 marks): Ensure coherence, organization, conciseness, and completeness in your IA. The IBO emphasizes conciseness, so aim for 6-12 pages of rigorous critical thinking. Embed all graphs, tables, and diagrams in the main body. Cite sources to avoid plagiarism, and provide a bibliography. Enhancing personal engagement is as important as showcasing your mathematical understanding.

Mathematical Presentation (3 marks): Define key terms when necessary, and utilize appropriate mathematical language and notation. Balance your use of complexity and clarity. Create visually appealing work by employing multiple methods of presentation, such as formulae, diagrams, or graphs. Draw your own graphs and ensure they have axes labels and headings that serve a clear purpose.

Personal Engagement (4 marks): Personal engagement can be challenging to score highly in, but there are strategies to improve your mark. Use first-person language, present your exploration in your own style, discuss the challenges you faced, and describe your feelings as your investigation progressed. Highlight the mathematical concepts you’ve learned and emphasize how your exploration has developed your mathematical ability.

Reflection (3 marks): Reflect on unexpected results or instances where you proved yourself wrong. Analyze what caused these unexpected outcomes and how they could be addressed. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your work, discussing different approaches you took or could have taken. Consider the implications of your findings and areas for further exploration.

Use of Mathematics (6 marks): Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to utilize mathematics beyond the level of your course to score highly in this criterion. The IBO recommends using mathematics that is “commensurate with the level of your course.” You can apply syllabus topics creatively or explore knowledge from optional modules. The key is to demonstrate a deep understanding, critical analysis, and the ability to solve personalized problems.


Once you’ve written your IA, take the time to proofread and ensure grammatical accuracy and consistent referencing. Explicitly address all the areas listed in the mark scheme. Use this proofreading checklist as a helpful tool for a comprehensive review.

Top Tips

Here are three key tips to remember as you embark on your Maths IA journey:

Be Engaged: Show your personal enthusiasm for the topic by writing in the first person, expressing your unique style, and describing the challenges you faced and how they made you feel.

Be Clear, Consistent, and Concise: Use clear mathematical terminology, remain consistent in your layout and referencing style, and prioritize conciseness over length. Remember that longer isn’t always better.

Have Fun: This is an opportunity to explore a fascinating area of maths that may not be covered in the syllabus. Make the project your own, and enjoy the experience as much as possible.

Best of luck!

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