Insight into the IB Math Analysis & Approaches HL Curriculum: What to Expect and What Resources are in Place

Yazen Abdul-Latif
6 min read

As a student who initially enrolled in IB Math: Analysis & Approaches HL, I knew this class would be a challenging class to participate in. What I didn’t expect was the stark difference in curriculum and exam format. Coming out of an Algebra 2 Honors equivalent course, where content expectations were objective, IB Math AA HL functions on subjectiveness. It’s not apparent whether you're testing only on trigonometric functions or if they’ll incorporate 4 components from different units. Below is a comparison of the review practice problems provided by the Haese IB Math AA HL Textbook (Left) and questions that have shown up on my HL exams during my time in IB Math AA HL (Right):

IB Math AA HL Textbook Practice Questions & IB Math AA HL Exam Questions

When comparing difficulties between the textbook and actual exam questions, it seems that the textbook only builds the simple skills of the content, missing a bridge between simple concepts and higher-level applications. As a student navigating this course, I realized that the textbook only refines simple skills. There’s no actual way to engage in higher-level thinking within the practice.

This caused me to struggle as someone with a more “practice makes perfect” approach to math. Upon meeting with IB coordinators to discuss this problem, it turns out the expectation of this course is to engage in mathematical arguments and theories, with presumed knowledge and little to no practice before testing (I should mention not every person will have this experience, this is just how my IB school functions). I was shocked to find that upon requesting additional study material, there was none to be given. I was expected to solve complex questions without prior experience, relying only upon making the connections from the simple skills learned in the textbook. With this, I decided to switch to the IB Math: Analysis & Approaches Standard Level class, where it’s more practice-based.

Ultimately, the IB Math mission is a theoretical-oriented one. It pushes students to make connections between previous knowledge and concepts without teacher guidance to make the connections by your side.


Upon discussion with my IB Math AA SL teacher, here are a few criteria/prerequisites that can indicate your success within the IB Math AA HL course:

  • Having a solid foundation in Algebra 2 Honors skills (logarithms, even & odd functions, quadratic formula, beginner trigonometry).

  • Desire to study mathematics at a university or post-secondary education OR enter a field that is deeply rooted in mathematics.

  • SUGGESTED, not required, but prior Pre-Calculus knowledge greatly increases your success in the course, as the first semester of IBDP 1 will be focused on Pre-Calculus content (trigonometric functions, bearings, unit circle).

  • A stronger focus on the humanities, social sciences, and science should factor into your decision. If you plan to focus intensely on history and chemistry for example, and math isn’t your priority, consider taking the SL version of IB Math AA to maintain advanced understanding while alleviating additional coursework.

NOTE: If you are entering IB Math AA HL without Pre-Calculus knowledge, I suggest taking time during the summer before the course to enrich yourself with some Pre-Calculus content, like memorizing the unit circle or exploring how to solve trigonometric functions. I know it seems daunting to do the math during the summer, but the transition into the course will be much smoother, and you will shed a lot fewer tears trying to memorize double-angle identities.


As a student who received few resources from my teacher before exams, building your math resource repertoire is essential. When you find teaching styles difficult, using these resources can keep you on track and even enhance your understanding of complex theories and models.


RevisionDojo covers every topic with endless practice questions for each Paper format. It also has markschemes and study guide materials that take you step-by-step through the process of each function and theorem. It also has AI assistance that can help reinforce knowledge, test your mathematical capabilities, and answer any questions you have.

Christos Nikolaidis:

  • Christos Nikolaidis is an IB Match educator dedicated to providing online practice for IB Math AA HL & SL and even IB Math AI topics. He has exercises and lecture notes to reinforce the simple skill teachings of the Haese IB textbook. If you’re looking to strengthen your skills through practice, his website features tons of problems and full-length tests with step-by-step solutions for each unit. His website is linked below:

IB Maths:

  • IB Maths is a teacher-run website focusing on the visual approach to higher mathematical learning. You can find videos for each unit and corresponding questions to try following the video explanation.

  • NOTE that this website is free of charge, so it is also great for students with financial hardships who can’t access high-priced tutoring. The website is linked below:

YouTube Videos:

  • While this seems simple, I never considered using YouTube to enhance my mathematical understanding. A platform where I watched LA stars didn’t seem like a place for academic learning. However, hundreds of IB educators worldwide have created videos tailored to teaching you each concept at your preferred pace. I suggest doing a deep dive on YouTube before the school year begins to look for creators who teach in a manner that makes the most sense and in which you see yourself improving when doing practice problems. This will reinforce a more stable transition into whatever math class you’re entering.