A Theme? A Motif? Which Is It?!

One of the cranky little issues that often (almost always) arises when you are trying to write about the leading ideas or stylistic choices in a piece of literature—as you often must in your courses that involve this kind of art—is when to use the term 'theme' and when to use 'motif.'  And it's no wonder. However, if you decide to settle this in your own head once and for all, and search out definitions either digitally or in print, ...

Drawing Graphs on the TI-84

A previous post on solving equations with the TI-84 has proved very popular, so here are some tips and tricks when using the GDC for drawing graphs and associated functionality. Pre-set scales It's easy enough to type in an equation and then press the graph button. However, the most important thing to do which helps make sense of any graph is to set up the correct window: the minimum and maximum value of the displayed coordinates, and the associated scale marks. The ...

. . .and more about syntax

The more we think about syntax, reading or writing it, the more we close in on sentences. If syntax is basically the ordering of words, sentences are how we deliver or read that ordering of words. We can opt for doing this in staccato ways with punchy short sentences, in long leisurely orderings, or in sentences that withhold a crucial element until the very end. And good writers use all of these. It’s relevant, then, to do a quick review of ...

Syntax: a path to better analysis, better writing

Very often, in commentaries and other analysis, students bring up the term, 'syntax' but seldom have much to say about it.  If you pay a little attention to figuring out what it is and how writers use it, you could really raise your game in both analysis, and yes, your own writing. First, let's get straight the simplest definition of what we mean when we talk about syntax.  It's simply the way words are arranged in a sentence.   'Arrangement' suggests writers ...

Written by cats and a hamster

It's Extended Essay time in the Northern Hemisphere (perhaps it's always Extended Essay time everywhere), and I'm sure that all students and supervisors are scrutinizing resources very carefully. How careful do you have to be? I thought I'd share these news stories... F.D.C. Willard's pawprint In 1975, The American physicist and mathematician Jack H. Hetherington, at Michigan State University, wanted to publish some of his research results in the field of low–temperature physics in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters. A colleague, who was ...

Searching for the Truth

Continuing my thoughts and writing about fake news, fake web pages, teaching search skills, and ultimately, trying to find the Truth of a matter, this post brings together for your consideration two web articles which are not new, but which work well together. The first is Why Students Can't Google their Way to the Truth, by Sam Wineburg and Sarah McGrew, published 1 November 2016.  The authors describe their research at Stamford University: "Over the past 18 months, we administered assessments that ...

Catch up on useful Mathematics blogs…

I have been writing these blogs for IB Mathematics students for a year and a half now: this is my 36th. They divide into three types: a)    General interest and recreation. These blogs look at how mathematics impinges on everyday life and aim to give you a wider appreciation of its relevance. Examples are the probability behind backgammon; Olympic records; some thoughts about zero; a series of blogs about great mathematicians; mathematical puzzles. b)    Help with specific areas of mathematics, ...

Pump up your verbs, please

In all of your essays, whether they are demanded for your Written Assignments, your commentaries, or your Paper 2 essay, you can win the heart of your examiners by moving beyond the conventional verbs you use to talk about literature.  Show, demonstrate, characterize, suggest, reveal, portray: all of these are good, valid and useful, and sometimes just the right one for your purposes. However, maybe you'd like to extend your options. How about 'intimate' for 'suggest?' ' The poet intimates that perhaps ...

Are you new to DP History?

By Wednesday, August 23, 2017 No tags 1

For those of you who are entering DP Year I there may be a degree of trepidation about what is to come.  There are plenty of websites and blogs out there that are dedicated to 'telling you like it is', which usually comes in the form of fear-mongering with a healthy dose of sarcasm.  There are countless aphorisms, the most famous of which, in historical circles, is "the wisdom of the IB is that students are given 2 hours to ...

‘Talk nerdy to me’: Delivering a winning IOP

The challenge of standing before your classmates and not just getting, but holding their attention,  is not a small one; in fact, that part of your audience is even more of a challenge than--yes--the attention of your teacher.  It's true that she or he is going to write down three marks, that this is your IB assessment, that it represents 15% of your overall grade.  But, let's look at it in larger terms. Here is a chance to try out your ...