Why the IB Internal Assessment is the Best Thing for My Math Class

I have two degrees in engineering, but until I got into my second or third year of college, I truly had no idea how to follow through with an original mathematical thought. I was good at math but mostly in the impractical sense – I could memorize basically any formula and never forget it. Thanks, UIL!

Now I see my students finishing their Internal Assessments (IA) and I’m so impressed with their creativity. I have students that truly struggle with tests and traditional content. If the only judgment of their mathematical abilities came from tests or an AP exam, they would most likely score in the bottom quarter. The IA is different.

The IA requires them to come up with a central question and a statement of task. They then must collect data either by generating original data or finding existing data that has not been analyzed. They then must perform two kinds of “simple processes” and one “further process”. Simple processes are things like finding/using percentages, areas of plane shapes, graphs, trigonometry, bar chars, pie charts, mean and standard deviation. Further processes are differential calculus, mathematical modeling, optimization, analysis of exponential functions, statistical tests and distributions, compound probability.

I chose to narrow down my Math Studies course’s IAs to be statistics-based. The Math SL and Math HL course IAs usually operate along the lines of calculus and modeling. The style of the paper needs to look and feel like a miniature thesis.

I was incredibly impressed by my students this year. Here is a sample of the work done. I love the idea that this process has shown some students that they are capable of not only generating an interesting question but can follow through with answering it in a mathematical way.

As far as generating content for students’ IAs, I like to start each stats topic with a scaffolded class project. I try to give them as little direction the beginning as possible and answer questions as they arise. Afterward, use their intro project as the necessitation for the content, I cover the content. Once they’ve tested on the content, they create a mini project of their own and present their findings to the class. A sample mini project prompt can be found here and a student’s mini project response can be found here.

In short, this set up in the IB world might seem formalized, but the only thing it has in common with traditional standardized testing is that there is oversight from an external source. It is, however, far from standard.

2 thoughts on “Why the IB Internal Assessment is the Best Thing for My Math Class

  1. Patrick, this is awesome! I don’t think I did this level work until I was a sophomore or junior psychology major. Very very cool.
    Thanks for sharing!
    — Tracy

    Liked by 1 person

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