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TOK 2023 - commentaries on questions

Updated: Mar 17, 2023

AcesMath! is proud to invite Sher Mae (Class of SJI International 2022) onboard as our student TOK tutor! Graduating with a score of 44, she has attained straight As for her TOK assignments and coursework throughout her IB years. She was awarded the joint SJII and Monash University Principal’s Award 2022 for excellence in academic and co-curricular leadership, as well as being a recipient of the selective SJII IB Academic Merit Scholarship.

She has experience tutoring and mentoring both her juniors and her peers since her secondary school days. Her greatest strength lies in her tailoring of approach and model answers to students’ individual needs and interests, encouraging a sense of ownership and genuine passion towards the subject!

Please find below her commentaries on the questions this year!

1. Are facts enough to prove a claim? Discuss with reference to any two areas of knowledge.

  1. Possible AOKs: History, Natural Sciences, Human Sciences

  2. Points to consider: the way a claim might be “proved” differs based on the AOK being evaluated and specific WOKs within them. This question lends itself to more nuanced analysis than what it seems to offer at first blush; make in-depth evaluation of key terms. For example differentiating the varying types of knowledge claims and how this might impact the usefulness of “fact” in proving them. Assess other factors often utilised in the process of “proving a claim” such as qualitative analysis or appeal to expert knowledge.

2. If “the mathematician’s patterns, like the painter’s and the poet’s, must be beautiful” (G.H. Hardy), how might this impact the production of knowledge? Discuss with reference to mathematics and the arts.

  1. Possible AOKs: Arts, Mathematics

  2. Points to consider: Arts and Mathematics offer interesting and different contexts to analyse the quote; the Arts offer a more conventional view of “beauty” while “beauty” in mathematical knowledge is less commonly referred to. Contrast the definitions and manifestations of beauty in both AOKs, remembering to justify the definitions logically to avoid an assertive basis for your essay. Be comparative with your analysis especially for Mathematics, this question implies that the quote’s approach to knowledge generation will result in a different or less conventional way of knowing than if current criteria were adhered to.

3. In the acquisition of knowledge, is following experts unquestioningly as dangerous as ignoring them completely? Discuss with reference to the human sciences and one other area of knowledge.

  1. Possible AOKs: Human Sciences, Natural Sciences, Mathematics, Arts

  2. Points to consider; define “danger” in the context of knowledge generation and justification. Human Sciences is noted for its use of qualitative observations to form conclusions. This makes a nice contrast with Areas of Knowledge with more quantitative, a priori ways of knowing or acquiring knowledge, such as Natural Sciences or Mathematics. Knowledge claims in these AOKs can often be more binary. Regardless, the purpose of knowledge acquisition should be examined in both AOKs used and remember to link back to its effects on society to prove its “danger” or lack thereof.

4. Is it problematic that knowledge is so often shaped by the values of those who produce it? Discuss with reference to any two areas of knowledge.

  1. Possible AOKs: Arts, Human Sciences, History

  2. Points to consider: Analysis would be easier if one chooses AOKs with more subjective scopes of interpretation. It would be difficult to prove that the majority of mathematical knowledge, for example, is “shaped by personal values”. Define “those who produce” knowledge; this can happen on an individual layperson level as well as an expert level, so deciding on this can determine the scope of your essay. “Problematic” knowledge generation can differ between AOKs, but generally this might refer to the conveyance of incorrect or biased opinions and facts. In evaluating the effect of the above within your chosen AOKs, reference could be made to contrasting knowledge frameworks and paradigm shifts.

5. Is it always the case that “the world isn’t just the way it is, it is how we understand it - and in understanding something, we bring something to it” (adapted from Life of Pi by Yann Martel)? Discuss with reference to history and the natural sciences.

  1. Possible AOKs: Natural Sciences, History

  2. Points to consider: Natural Sciences and History are great for this question since their largely different WOKs facilitate scope for analysis. For the natural sciences, consider the purpose and nature of the majority of scientific knowledge generation; reliance on a priori facts might oppose the quote’s stance, instead showing that the world is “the way it is”. For history, the prevalence of deductive analysis lends more credence to the quote’s emphasis on “understanding” versus rote memorisation of indisputable facts.

6. Faced with a vast amount of information, how do we select what is significant for the acquisition of knowledge? Discuss with reference to the natural sciences and one other area of knowledge.

  1. Possible AOKs: Natural Sciences, Human Sciences, History, Mathematics

  2. Points to consider: The idea of “significance” is highly subjective and hinges upon the type of knowledge claim being made, as well as the context of the AOK which one chooses. In AOKs with more elements of subjectivity, the possible arbitrariness of significance or relevance of information/evidence then raises tension and possibility of confirmation bias, or other problematic aspects of knowledge generation. References to contemporaneous affairs of, for example, the rise of the knowledge economy could be used as a backdrop for analysis.

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