Mathematics has been described as the study of structure, order and relation that has evolved from the practices of counting, measuring and describing objects. Mathematics provides a unique language to describe, explore and communicate the nature of the world we live in as well as being a constantly building body of knowledge and truth in itself that is distinctive in its certainty. These two aspects of mathematics, a discipline that is studied for its intrinsic pleasure and a means to explore and understand the world we live in, are both separate yet closely linked.
Mathematics is driven by abstract concepts and generalization. This mathematics is drawn out of ideas, and develops through linking these ideas and developing new ones. These mathematical ideas may have no immediate practical application. Doing such mathematics is about digging deeper to increase mathematical knowledge and truth. The new knowledge is presented in the form of theorems that have been built from axioms and logical mathematical arguments and a theorem is only accepted as true when it has been proven. The body of knowledge that makes up mathematics is not fixed; it has grown during human history and is growing at an increasing rate.
The side of mathematics that is based on describing our world and solving practical problems is often carried out in the context of another area of study. Mathematics is used in a diverse range of disciplines as both a language and a tool to explore the universe; alongside this its applications include analyzing trends, making predictions, quantifying risk, exploring relationships and interdependence.
While these two different facets of mathematics may seem separate, they are often deeply connected. When mathematics is developed, history has taught us that a seemingly obscure, abstract mathematical theorem or fact may in time be highly significant. On the other hand, much mathematics is developed in response to the needs of other disciplines.
The two mathematics courses available to Diploma Programme (DP) students express both the differences that exist in mathematics described above and the connections between them. These two courses might approach mathematics from different perspectives, but they are connected by the same mathematical body of knowledge, ways of thinking and approaches to problems. The differences in the courses may also be related to the types of tools, for instance technology, that are used to solve abstract or practical problems. The next section will describe in more detail the two available courses.
Mathematics: analysis and approaches
This course recognizes the need for analytical expertise in a world where innovation is increasingly dependent on a deep understanding of mathematics. This course includes topics that are both traditionally part of a pre-university mathematics course (for example, functions, trigonometry, calculus) as well as topics that are amenable to investigation, conjecture and proof, for instance the study of sequences and series at both SL and HL, and proof by induction at HL.
The course allows the use of technology, as fluency in relevant mathematical software and hand-held technology is important regardless of choice of course. However, Mathematics: analysis and approaches has a strong emphasis on the ability to construct, communicate and justify correct mathematical arguments.
Mathematics: analysis and approaches: Distinction between SL and HL
Students who choose Mathematics: analysis and approaches at SL or HL should be comfortable in the manipulation of algebraic expressions and enjoy the recognition of patterns and understand the mathematical generalization of these patterns. Students who wish to take Mathematics: analysis and approaches at higher level will have strong algebraic skills and the ability to understand simple proof. They will be students who enjoy spending time with problems and get pleasure and satisfaction from solving challenging problems.
Mathematics: applications and interpretation
This course recognizes the increasing role that mathematics and technology play in a diverse range of fields in a data-rich world. As such, it emphasizes the meaning of mathematics in context by focusing on topics that are often used as applications or in mathematical modelling. To give this understanding a firm base, this course also includes topics that are traditionally part of a pre-university mathematics course such as calculus and statistics.
The course makes extensive use of technology to allow students to explore and construct mathematical models. Mathematics: applications and interpretation will develop mathematical thinking, often in the context of a practical problem and using technology to justify conjectures.
Mathematics: applications and interpretation: Distinction between SL and HL
Students who choose Mathematics: applications and interpretation at SL or HL should enjoy seeing mathematics used in real-world contexts and to solve real-world problems. Students who wish to take Mathematics: applications and interpretation at higher level will have good algebraic skills and experience of solving real-world problems. They will be students who get pleasure and satisfaction when exploring challenging problems and who are comfortable to undertake this exploration using technology.
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