So our school is looking into implementing the International Baccalaureate program at our school in addition (?) to our AP programs. I know little about IB, and I’m interested in your knowledge and opinions on the IB program. Lemme have it. Good stuff? Things to watch out for?

Dan,

I have taught both programs (IB an AP). I much prefer the AP program because its sole focus is on the academics. I love teaching the AP Calculus. It’s a great course.

The IB program, in general, is much more stressful on kids. Not only do they have the extra rigor in their classes, but there are many other requirements that take away from their time. They must do an extended essay, take a Theory of Knowledge course, and perform community service. All of those are great things, but IB kids are busy and stressed out. IB is really focused on the whole child, not just he academics. AP is focused only on the academics.

As for IB math, it’s not straight calculus like the AP is. There is also vectors, matrices and probability. In addition, students must complete two portfolio projects. These are lengthy math papers, and are scored by the classroom teacher using a rubric. They take forever to mark. When I was DH in an IB school, I had trouble convincing teachers to teach the IB math. The kids are great, but the workload for the teachers is huge. My last set of IB portfolio projects took me about 2 hours each to mark in a class of 36 kids.

We have one school in our district that offers both IB and AP. The AP program is huge, and the IB program has a handful of kids. We have another school that is switching from IB to AP. I suspect there are two reasons they are making this switch. One would be cost, and another would be that they are losing students to a nearby AP school.

A nice perk of teaching IB is that the IBO requires their schools to send teachers for training. I attended training in great places like Los Angeles, nice places like Vancouver, and freaking cold places like Winnipeg. No matter where the sessions are, they do end up being great professional learning.

There are some changes coming to IB math next year. Since I am no longer actively involved in the program, don’t take what I say here as gospel. My understanding is that matrices (or is it vectors?) have been removed. I think they are going from two portfolio projects down to one.

It’s just my first year teaching Standard Level IB Math, but I love it! I have not taught AP Calculus before, so I cannot draw a comparison. But, I personally really like the portfolio assignments and think they involve a great deal of thinking and are therefore a highlight of the IB curriculum for me personally. I also like the selection of topics in the IB math curriculum.

I agree, however, that it is stressful for the kids. If your school wants to implement the IB, you will need a great IB coordinator who can organize the logistics of the timelines to make sure that all of the major assignments are sufficiently spaced out across all classes. (Each assignment can take weeks or even months to complete, depending on the class. So, when they are due, it’s a really big deal.)

Good luck!

Full disclosure: I have taught IB at the grade 11 level for 4 or 5 years, never AP. Our school has had IB since the early 80s and will introduce AP next year with exams in 2013.

Our school has about 1100 students while the school in Edmonton that offers both (that John speaks of) has 2000+ students. We are not sure how the IB/AP will go, but our principal wants it so we follow.

Our initial viw of calculus AP vs IB is that the calculus course goes much deeper. Our current IB 31 teacher is convinced that AP is harder than IB (in terms of the math course). I can not speak to any other subjects.

I think John spent way to long marking his projects. The projects are sent away to IB central for external review. I read over the papers, make a few comments and store them away until May of their grade 12 year.

Watch out who teaches the kids grade 10. My point being, if you combine AP/IB in grade 10 and then split in grade 11 or 12, my belief is that the grade 10 teacher CAN NOT teach the 20 or 30. Kids have a habit of following teachers and will then choose a program beacuse “I had Mr. X in grade 10 and liked him.”

John is correct though, AP is about the course, IB is about the student. If you love math and all you want is to see university math early, then skip IB and take AP. If you want to go beyond curriculum and experience academics, then take IB.

Interesting feedback from all. I’ll be visiting a local school soon to see how they’ve implemented the IB program, and I have plenty of questions.

Thank you very much.

Hey, just skimming again these other comments above, I think they’re not including the possibility of offering IB Higher Level math at your school. If you take Higher Level math, I believe the rigor is pretty extreme for a high-school course. They even teach differential equations as a unit in that course, and I have heard that the portfolio requirements are also much more rigorous. In fact, I have seen very bright math students who are scared to take HL math (reputedly the hardest IB course). So, I’m not sure it’s entirely fair to say that AP Calculus is a more rigorous course. Deeper, perhaps, in the sense that it’s more focused in Calculus skills. But harder? I would think it’s quite the opposite…

I’ve been teaching IB Standard Level Maths (in an IB World School) for the last 2 years after teaching A-Level for 2 years in the UK. There are a few things about the IB that I love:

1) The portfolio tasks are great! One is based on modelling (e.g. populations, tide height, BMI, presence of drugs in blood, G-Force etc.) and another based on pattern searching, reaching a general formula and considering the scope and limitations of the formula (not so easy to give examples as they are usually abstract topics). The coursework element is going to change however to be more like IB Math Studies which encourages the students to pick their own questions. Possibly a good thing? We’ll have to wait and see.

2) The end-of-course assessments are based on concepts and understanding – not simply on practising lots of exam questions. This is why it is so difficult to achieve a Grade 7 in IB (don’t qoute me but I think it’s only the top 2% that achieve a grade 7 in IB SL Maths and IB HL Maths).

As mentioned above, as an IB teacher you have to be very aware of the stresses and strains of the IB work load. I genuinely have a lot of sympathy for anybody studying the IB. Indeed, our previous students often tell us that their University work load is nothing compared to what they did in the IB.

Hope that gives you some insight. All the best with it.