IB Tips from our IB math and science tutors

Updated: Jan 12, 2019

IB math and science are subjects that a lot of IB students have difficulties with. In this blog post, we will share tips suggested by our IB math tutor and IB science tutor.

Math, Physics and Chemistry are similar in a lot of ways. Students who

enjoy one tend to enjoy the other two and students who excel in one will

mostly excel in the other two. All three subjects require students to think

and solve problems logically. Most students can understand the basic

concepts, but not many can apply the concepts to difficult test questions

and score top marks. You have probably heard that the key to doing well in

these subjects is intensive practice, but you may not know the most

effective way of practicing.


Through talking to top students in the fields of Math, Physics and

Chemistry, we have discovered that students who excel in these fields have

a specific mindset and approach to studying that set them apart.


The bulldog mindset


Are you a good problem solver? You might think problem-solving skills

are an innate ability, but we are here to tell you that it is not. A top student

we talked to told us that he read a chapter in the book "Outlier" by

Malcolm Gladwell that improved his score in the sciences and math

dramatically.


In one of the chapters, Gladwell tries to explain the difference in math

ability between Asians and Caucasian Americans. This has been the

subject of many studies, and experiments seem to show that the answer can

be captured by one word: persistency.


To study the difference in how people approach a math problem, a math

professor gave difficult math problems to over 1000 Asians and Caucasian

Americans to do. The stunning difference is that Asians are willing to

spend an average of 15-30 minutes on the problem before giving up. While

Caucasian Americans, on the other hand, are only willing to give the

problem 3-5 minutes. The study concludes that persistency is what sets

great math students apart from poor math students. The best math students

are willing to dedicate themselves to figuring things out before giving up,

but the poor ones just give up too easily.


There are 3 main benefits of breaking down a difficult math problem on

your own:

1. You gain tremendous confidence in problem solving, and soon, you will

love solving math questions.

2. You will understand the concepts related to the question very well.

3. You can solve unfamiliar problems in exams much more easily.


After talking to more top math students, we found that they all have the

never-give-up mindset and attitude, which we called the bulldog mindset.

Some poor math students we talked to, on the other hand, simply give up

very easily. Whenever they encounter a question they don’t know, they

would give up within 30 seconds and ask the teacher for the answer. To be

great at math, you need to be willing to try different approaches to solving

a problem until you find one that works. When you finally do find one, you

will feel tremendously rewarding and the problem solving skill will truly

become yours.


With repetition comes intuition


Almost all top math students describe problem solving as an intuitive

process. When they see a question on an exam, their instinct will show

them the approach to solving it. The process is automatic. It is like a reflex

action in their brain that tells them what they should do. Do you find this

hard to relate to?


Everyone has the ability to achieve this level of mastery. When you repeat

a process over and over again, it becomes wired into your brain. It is like