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The IBO offers two different IB math courses to meet the different needs and aspirations of students.

  • Mathematics: Analysis and Approaches (AA)
  • Mathematics: Applications and Interpretation (AI)

Both courses are offered at Standard Level (SL) and Higher Level (HL). IB Math AA is tailored towards deeper abstract and theoretical understanding of mathematical concepts, whereas IB Math AI is tailored towards application of mathematical concepts to solve a wide range of practical problems.

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Overview For IB Math AA & IB Math AI

Most recently, IB has undertaken a restructuring of its math curriculum in which the previous categories of Math Studies, Math Standard Level (SL), Math Higher Level (HL) and Further Math have now been replaced by Math Analysis and Approaches (AA) and Math Application and Interpretation (AI), each offered at Standard Level (SL) and Higher Level (HL).

These changes are applicable for the May 2021 assessment cohort and beyond.

The purpose of these changes is to provide students with more flexibility in their choice of mathematics pathways while also improving practically relevancy of the curriculum in this digital age.

So, what are the differences between Math AA vs AI?

Math Analysis & Approaches (AA)


Essentially, Math AA is tailored towards deeper abstract and theoretical understanding of mathematical concepts. It incorporates topics such as advanced calculus and proof by induction, and there is one paper without a calculator.

You will also have the option of picking between math AA SL and HL, and as with your other subjects, the coverage of content is naturally greater in HL.

Who Should Take Math AA?

  • Standard Level (SL): Students who are moderate at math & intend to study economics or sciences after high school.
  • Higher Level (HL): Students who are strong at math & intend to pursue maths or engineering after high school

What’s It Similar To?

Although it is difficult to draw parallels between these categories and the old categories, Math AA SL is most similar to old Math SL and Math AA HL is most similar to old Math HL.

Math Applications & Interpretation (AI)


Math AI is for students who enjoy mathematics when applied to a practical context. Topics such as statistics, distributions, matrices comprise a core part of its foundation and you will have access to a calculator for all papers.

Who Should Take Math AI?

  • Standard Level (SL): Students who are not strong at math & do not intend to study math-based subjects after high school
  • Higher Level (HL): Students who are strong at math but do not intend to study math-based subjects after high school

What’s It Similar To?

As with Math AA, you have the option of picking between AI SL and AI HL. Math AI SL is most analogous to Math Studies, however Math AI HL is unlike any of the previously offered math courses.

About IB Math AA/AI Curriculum

One interesting part to mention is that AA and AI do share topics in common. They first cover the same 5 topics but with varying emphasis in each area. These topics are:

  1. Number and algebra
  2. Functions
  3. Geometry and trigonometry
  4. Statics and probability
  5. Calculus

These topics fall under the core concepts and will be covered in the first 60 hours of the course.

However, the way these concepts are approached will depend. They will be approached via a theoretical lens if a student is studying it as an AA topic but the same topic will be taught with an ‘implementation’ mindset in an AI class.

Which IB Math Subject Should You Choose?

In general, if you are someone who enjoys math and would like to opt for a math intensive degree like physics, engineering, or pure math, then Math AA HL would be the ideal choice.

When it comes to specific requirements for the UK, most universities are still finalizing their prerequisites (especially for the 2021 intake). A few such as Cambridge and King’s College London have indicated an explicit requirement for Math AA HL for their math-heavy courses.

However, Oxford and Edinburgh have stated they have no preference for either the Analysis and Approaches (AA) course or the Applications and Interpretation (AI) course. So, unless stated on their website, it is worth reaching out to the admissions office at your chosen university to seek further clarification.

If you’re someone who does plan to pursue a moderately math-linked course such as economics or sciences, most universities would still prefer having Math AA, either at SL or HL.

On the other hand, if you absolutely resent math, and would prefer to take courses such as law, arts, language or social sciences, then there usually are no specific math requirements for your chosen course. You would be most comfortable with Math AI SL.

About IB Math Assessment

Assessments in both math courses are to ascertain the ability of students to recollect and use appropriate mathematical concepts or techniques in both familiar and unfamiliar contexts. Problem-solving is key to learning mathematical concepts, and it requires application of a wide range of concepts and skills. Students are also required to sketch mathematical graphs or diagrams and present their arguments, reasoning and solutions clearly and logically using appropriate notations. The ability to effectively use appropriate technology to solve problems is also examined.

The internal assessment is an integral part of both math courses, and it is done by both SL and HL students. This is to assess the ability of students to independently investigate mathematics in their area of interest without the time constraints of written examinations. It enables students to analyse mathematical information, generate hypotheses, test their validity, draw conclusions and clearly communicate their findings.

The timing and weightage of assessments is the same for both courses, but the format of the papers is different. HL students take 3 papers, while SL students only take 2 papers.

TypeFormatTimeWeightage of final grade
Paper 1No technology allowed.

Section A:
Short response questions

Section B:
Extended response questions
Technology allowed.

Short response questions
1 hour 30 minutes2 hours40%30%
Paper 2Technology allowed.

Section A:
Short response questions

Section B:
Extended response questions
Technology allowed.

Extended response questions
1 hour 30 minutes2 hours40%30%
Paper 3Technology allowed.

Two Extended response problem solving questions
Technology allowed.

Two Extended response problem solving questions
-1 hour-20%
Internal Assessment (IA)Investigation and reportInvestigation and report15 hours15 hours20%20%

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Prep Zone's IB 1-to-1 Tuition Service

Prep Zone provides customized 1-to-1 IB tuition programs based on the individual needs of our students. We are here to assist you every step of the way, whether you are looking to complete a quick refresher course for the summer or to achieve a high score for your final IB exam.

The following programs are availabe for these subjects (SL & HL): Math AA/AI, Language & Literature, English, Chinese A/B, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Economics, Computer Science, Psychology, Geography, History, Spanish, Theory of Knowledge (TOK).

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Type: Short Term

Estimated Duration: 1 – 3 months, during summer break

The IB Summer Program consists of the IB Get-Ahead program and the IB-Refresher program.

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Designed for students preparing to enter IB Year 1 & 2 (Year 12/13), and wishing to have an early start on their academic year. During this program, students will get a head start on the topics that will be covered in the following year’s course.

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Designed for students who are entering IB Year 2 (Year 13) and would like to reinforce what they have learned so far. This program is designed for those with shaky foundations or who simply wish to ensure that they are ready for IB Year 2.

IB Score
Improvement Program


Type: Long Term

Estimated Duration: Flexible

The IB Score Improvement program is a long-term tuition program that lasts for the duration of the student’s academic year. It is intended to reinforce what students have learned in class and to prepare them for future topics. Our trainer may provide additional practice to ensure that the student remains ahead of the curve if the student already has a strong academic foundation.

IB Exam Preparation Program

Type: Short Term

Estimated Duration: 3 – 6 months, before exam period

The IB Exam Preparation Program is designed for students who wish to focus their attention on improving their score on the upcoming examination. As soon as the program is initiated, our trainer will assess the student’s current academic level and suggest an action plan based on the student’s target score. The majority of the sessions will be devoted to helping students improve their weak areas and working on their exam skills using past papers.

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