Q&A on IB DP Maths with Stephen Powell, OWIS’ Head of Maths

Jasween Gill
Published on
June 29, 2021

The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, or IB DP, is considered by many as the gold standard for high school education. It's a very thorough programme, and it's respected worldwide as the benchmark for college applications. That's why OWIS teaches IB DP to its students. IB mathematics, in particular, teaches students a range of analytical skills that can help them prepare for university. 

It was our pleasure to interview Mr Powell, head of maths at OWIS. During our discussion, we covered a variety of important topics, including how the OWIS IB DP programme prepares students for university and what OWIS does differently from other schools. We'd like to share the most important parts of our interview with you.

How does OWIS prepare students for university?
OWIS IB DP Students have the option to study Analysis & Approaches (AA) or Applications & Interpretation (AI) streams

At OWIS, we follow the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, which is quickly becoming the global benchmark for sophisticated learning. The mix of subjects, the intensity of what the students do and the values the programme creates with the community service and other aspects - all of this is becoming recognised worldwide.

How does IB mathematics teach students what they'll need for university and beyond?

In IB Mathematics, there are two main curriculum choices: AA (analysis and approaches) and AI (applications and interpretation).

AA is aimed at mathematicians, engineers and people that are going to use maths when they go off to a university course. AI is aimed at those who are interested in maths from a practical context. Statistics, distributions and matrices are topics that are core to this second curriculum choice.

These options are offered at a Standard Level (SL) and High Level (HL), depending on your aspirations in your career. At this school, we deliver both - whatever the group that year most wants is how we divide our classes and our teaching to make sure everybody can achieve their aspirations.

We have very small class sizes in the IB DP in mathematics. This personal touch allows us to help students who are struggling and offer special attention to those pushing for the very top levels.

Does the curriculum allow students to study subjects that interest them?

Yes, the IB DP has the internal assessment or IA, which is a project students do that makes up 20% of their result. Through the IA, they are allowed to express who they are, what they can do, and explore a subject that interests them via either the medium of statistics or mathematics, depending on the course they're taking. It's excellent.

How to choose between AA & AI streams in IB DP Maths?
How does OWIS assess students’ abilities in other areas?

As a school, we assess them all the way right to the end of units, so we can build up a picture of how it's going, and then at the end of the first year, we assess everything they've studied so far. At the end of the second year, they take examinations based on these two years’ worth of subject material. It's a very thorough programme, and that's why it's respected worldwide as the benchmark for college applications.

What is rewarding about your job?

As a teacher for the last 20 years, my aspiration was always to become an IB teacher. It's a joy to engage with the students on a day-to-day basis because their brain isn't just focused on one subject at a time. Through the project work and so on, they are thinking about the community, the world, and what they can do with the maths they're learning; they are becoming truly well-rounded individuals. We spend a lot of time discussing where maths is used and how it is used, and that stimulates their minds and encourages them to pick careers.

I've been teaching for 20 years, and I am 50 years old. I've taught on five continents, four different examination systems around the world, and when this job came up, even though it's on the other side of Singapore and I do a two-hour commute every morning, I will happily do that to come here and work in this environment where the teachers truly collaborate.

The kindness doesn't just extend to the students. It extends to how I feel each day. I wake up, and I look forward to my day. I end my day happy. It is a joy to be here. The students are relaxed, and I enjoy being around them, which allows me to think, allowing me to work for their benefit. You do it for personal reasons, rather than just ticking boxes of the job that you're supposed to do.

Want to attend a school like OWIS? Contact Us

OWIS is made up of caring administrators, teachers who are invested in their jobs, and students who are genuinely supported by their teachers. Do you want your child to become a part of the student body at OWIS? Book a virtual tour with us today!


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Jasween Gill

Admissions & Communications Director

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