IB Mathematics (SL and HL)

Course description

Mathematics is a core element of the Diploma Programme and must be studied at either Standard or Higher Level.

It should be noted that the IB Course specifications changed recently and hence the range of options available has evolved. In this context, university course requirements are also evolving, and students are strongly encouraged to check the latest guidance on university websites.

At Higher Level, there are two courses which embrace different approaches to mathematics. Students must secure at least a strong grade 8 in IGCSE to proceed to either of these HL courses, and most will have a grade 9.

  • HL Mathematics: Analysis and Approaches focuses on abstract elements of maths with a heavy emphasis on algebra and pure mathematics. It is particularly suitable for those students who are seeking to pursue maths at university, either in isolation or in combination with another subject. It will also be suitable for those aiming for particularly theoretical physics or engineering courses, or for economics at a top university.
  • In contrast, HL Mathematics: Application and Interpretation focuses on the use of technology to solve mathematical problems and embraces the practical skills that are likely to be relevant to students studying most science degrees.

At Standard Level, two corresponding courses are also available.

  • SL Mathematics: Analysis and Approaches is suitable for anyone who succeeded with algebra, trigonometry, and the pure aspects of IGCSE mathematics. It is also suitable for those who may continue to have a mathematical component to their higher education, or wish to study abroad.
  • SL Mathematics: Application and Interpretation is suitable for those aiming for UK universities for whom maths is not likely to feature as a significant part of their higher education: languages, arts, humanities, business and management, international relations, law and, at some universities, medicine. It is heavily based on the use of technology to solve problems, together with interpretation of the outcome, with a significant emphasis on statistics. Most students will complete the SL A&I course over the standard 2 years. However, strong mathematicians (with at least a grade 8 in IGCSE) who have no intention to pursue mathematics further in higher education can choose to complete the course in the Lower Sixth. Completing the course in a year gives students the opportunity to focus their Upper Sixth attention on subjects more appropriate to their university intentions. But it should be noted that completion of the SL A&I course in such a compressed timeframe does require significantly greater time and focus during the Lower Sixth year.


For Higher Level, students must have attained a strong 8 or 9 at IGCSE and should have a clear interest and enthusiasm for the subject. For both the Standard Level Analysis and Approaches course, and also for the accelerated, one year Standard Level Application and Interpretation course, students must have attained at least a grade 8 in IGCSE Mathematics. Any Wellingtonian can tackle Standard Level Application and Interpretation over 2 years.

Potential careers

Mathematics is a much sought-after qualification for entry to a wide variety of full-time courses in Higher Education. There are also many areas of employment that see Mathematics as an important qualification and it is often a requirement for the vocational qualifications related to these areas. Careers would include be economics, medicine, architecture, accountancy, teaching, psychology, environmental studies, computing and IT. SL Application and Interpretation offers excellent support and preparation for non-technical subjects at university, and thereafter the world of employment. Successful pupils will have a range of practical skills far superior to those who finished their study of mathematics at GCSE

Contact for further information

Mr PT Cootes: ptc@wellingtoncollege.org.uk