Sam Lloyd, Master of Puzzles

Sam Lloyd was born in Philadelphia in 1841, but lived most of his life in New York. He was primarily a chess player and composer of chess problems, but he also delighted in mathematical puzzling. Actually, not just mathematical puzzles, but word puzzles; picture puzzles; tangrams; he composed thousands of them. In fact, it was one of his pictorial puzzles which grabbed my attention at a very early age, and possibly sparked my enjoyment of such puzzles. Have a look ...

Essays about Character: Analysis, Not Re-description

In your earlier years, writing about characters by re-describing them in your own words was quite acceptable, but as an IB diploma student that won't work.  First, you need to change your thinking from 'character' to 'characterization.' This last is the kind of critical thinking you need to engage in: 'how does the writer create the character' rather than 'who is this character.'  Writing about characterization is something you can usefully do in essays and oral presentations and get good ...

Being Knowledgeable

One of the ten attributes of the ideal learner in the IB Learner Profile is to be knowledgeable. Maybe of all of them this is the one which seems most clearly to connect to TOK, although many would argue that all attributes have a special connection with TOK or even that it is in and through TOK that the Learner Profile attributes are most fully realised. Be that as it may, one could also say that for many students, teachers ...

Moral Machines

Have you seen this video? https://www.youtube.com/watch?=21&v=XCO8ET66xE4 You'll find it on this page http://moralmachine.mit.edu/ at the MIT website, 'A platform for gathering a human perspective on moral decisions made by machine intelligence, such as self-driving cars. We show you moral dilemmas, where a driverless car must choose the lesser of two evils, such as killing two passengers or five pedestrians. As an outside observer, you judge which outcome you thing is more acceptable.  You can then see how your responses compare with those of other ...

Literature and Film

Currently, 'Literature and Film' is one of the most popular 'suggested options' under Part 4: Options (a bit confusing, to say the least, though it all shakes out as 'Free Choice', really). There are a lot of great ideas coming from creative classrooms and here are a few from workshop participants which you might not have considered. Madame Bovary is not an easy text for many of today's students, but using film can function as a complement to reading the novel.   ...

Help with your IB Mathematics

Whether you are in the first weeks of your diploma course, or whether you are halfway through, there are always going to be some parts of the maths syllabus that make you scratch your head! Over the past couple of years some of the blogs I have written have concentrated on specific topics which I know can benefit from further explanation. I thought it would be helpful to list those blogs here: a reference for those that are new to ...

Humor and Irony, Elusive Terms

In my own classroom, we often struggle with clarifying what constitutes humor in writing, how it is to be handled critically and how to write successfully about it. One (of many) complementary problems is being sure what we mean by irony.   These terms have long been a problem in the history of criticism and separating what is comic in a classical sense, what is ironic, what is funny  gives all of us problems with precision. To help my students, I created ...

The Visual Arts Exhibition: Is Contemporary Art Penalized?

Conceptual Qualities? I was recently in conversation with the DP Visual Arts Chief Examiner, Subject Manager and Principal Examiner for Exhibition SL. The Subject Manager was interested in particular in our interpretation of the 'Conceptual Qualities' Exhibition criterion. A teacher had suggested that students who focused on styles and formats of contemporary art in their final art exhibition may not do as well as students who worked in more traditional forms (e.g. painting and drawing); in effect the suggestion was that contemporary art ...

New Study & Revision Guides for IB History Paper 2: Topic 11: Causes and Effects of 20th-century Wars

We are pleased to announce the publication of two new titles in the OSC IB Study & Revision Guide series. IB History SL & HL Paper 2 Causes and Effects of 20th-century Wars: The First World War IB History SL & HL Paper 2 Causes and Effects of 20th-century Wars: The Second World War Written for the requirements of the 2017–2023 exam sessions, these revision guides support exam preparation for IBDP History Paper 2, focusing on the First and Second World War respectively ...

Nobel Prize in Chemistry and HL Biochemistry

This years Nobel prize in chemistry has been awarded to three researchers, Frances Arnold, George Smith and Gregory Winter for their work on enzyme research. Their work uses a technique called ‘directed evolution’ to create new enzymes. It does also tie in nicely with some of the subject material covered in the HL biochemistry option. As I understand it, the work involves causing a gene (in a bacteria) to mutate randomly by using chemical mutagens or a technique called PCR. The ...