Back to Basics with IB Math Studies

Yesterday, my schedule was changed to replace one of my Advanced Math/ Pre-Calculus classes with my 1st International Baccalaureate (IB) course, Mathematical Studies. I have absolutely no knowledge or experience in teaching IB courses, so this is going to be a challenge for me and my students. I have heard “IB” used interchangeably with “AP” (Advanced Placement) as a college-preparatory curriculum for “advanced” students. However, from what I have seen so far, these are two very different curricula based on differing pedagogy.

Baby Math
Honestly I was a little shocked and even disappointed when I saw the first few pages of my new IB textbook. I was told that I would be teaching “IB Probability and Statistics” this semester, and I assumed that this would be similar to AP Statistics, which I’ve taught before.
Not so much.
For example, in Chapter 1, section C of the textbook, students are introduced to “Words Used in Mathematics” including vocabulary words like “addition, “sum”, “quotient” and “dividend”. There are also exercises in this section that include word problems that read like “My account balance was $2004. I withdrew amounts of $105, $1000 and $875. What is my bank balance now?” As my students would say: “Really???”
Crawl before you walk
When the teacher who taught this class before me told me that the course began with “baby math” and lots of vocabulary, I don’t think I really understood until I took a look at the text. I was initially put off by the simplicity of the math being presented in this supposedly challenging curriculum. But, when I gave it a little more thought, I began to come around to the idea that this may be a good thing. I mean, how much do we teachers complain about not being able to teach students at an appropriate level because they do not have the background knowledge to support it? Usually I find myself working against the clock in higher-level math classes–trying to teach the standards while simultaneously reviewing all the prerequisite skills the students need to understand the topic at hand. This is especially difficult in AP Calculus, unparallelled in its rigor and demand for successful students to have a strong math background. I am actually excited to teach a curriculum with a thorough (i.e. not Chapter “P”) built-in review of basic concepts like factorization and order of operations before we get into heavy-duty topics like advanced statistical methods and differential calculus, which are also included in Math Studies. It seems, on the surface, that this course gives students a stronger foundation at a basic level, and exposure to a variety of math topics of greater difficulty to make for a “well-rounded” curriculum.

I have a lot of catching up to do, and so do my students, since school has been in session for two weeks, and we have only been together for 2 days. They had another teacher before me, so they have been working up to this point, but we still have to get to know one another and create our own classroom community…we started today by setting up our class website. The kids favorite feature–video chat!

I cannot wait to see how we use this for teaching and learning math–the IB way!

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