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This is an IELTS writing task 2 sample answer essay on the topic of whether or not math and philosophy should be compulsory/mandatory from the real IELTS exam.

It’s a really strange question, to be honest! Read below to see how I handled it….

Please consider supporting me on Patreon.com/howtodoielts to receive my exclusive IELTS Ebooks – you can even sign up for private live lessons with me!

Dave

IELTS Essay: Compulsory Math and Philosophy

Some people think that because children find subjects such as mathematics and philosophy difficult, they ought to be optional instead of compulsory.

To what extent do you agree?

Many feel that overly rigorous subjects such as mathematics and philosophy should not be mandatory for children. In my opinion, though there is a risk students will struggle to cope, teachers should be able to adapt the subject matter.

One reason these subjects should not be mandatory is they are often too abstract for young children. Numbers themselves are abstract. This is why many children are unable to tell time as it is essentially a metaphorical division of a circle into a clock. Teachers who place too much emphasis on abstract numbers and ideas in their lessons will find that students may become bored because they are unable to grasp the concepts. Philosophy could also become tedious and inefficient if the students lack the cognitive ability to apply general rules and ethical considerations to everyday life. This capacity to recognize and apply abstractions typically develops later in adolescence.

However, these subjects can be made accessible for children. The key is the approach of teachers and choice of materials. Math, for example, does not need to begin with complex, abstract equations but could instead involve real world scenarios and simple logic. Numbers could be introduced later as children tend to be confused by less grounded concepts. Similarly, philosophy can be approached from a number of mediums, including through stories. Many children’s stories and fables feature curious protagonists and interesting morals. Instead of explicitly instructing children through academic jargon, they can engage with the same questions about life and its origins more directly through the journey of characters in a story.

In conclusion, despite the risks of theory-heavy subjects for young learners, schools should embrace the challenge and seek less explicit teaching methodologies. This will help form the basis of a well-rounded education.

Analysis

1. Many feel that overly rigorous subjects such as mathematics and philosophy should not be mandatory for children. 2. In my opinion, though there is a risk students will struggle to cope, teachers should be able to adapt the subject matter.

  1. Paraphrase the overall essay topic.
  2. Write a clear opinion. Read more about introductions here.

1. One reason these subjects should not be mandatory is they are often too abstract for young children. 2. Numbers themselves are abstract. 3. This is why many children are unable to tell time as it is essentially a metaphorical division of a circle into a clock. 4. Teachers who place too much emphasis on abstract numbers and ideas in their lessons will find that students may become bored because they are unable to grasp the concepts. 5. Philosophy could also become tedious and inefficient if the students lack the cognitive ability to apply general rules and ethical considerations to everyday life. 6. This capacity to recognize and apply abstractions typically develops later in adolescence.

  1. Write a topic sentence with a clear main idea at the end.
  2. Explain your main idea.
  3. Develop it with specific or hypothetical examples.
  4. Keep developing it fully.
  5. Extend with some long sentences as well.
  6. Finish this main idea.

1. However, these subjects can be made accessible for children. 2. The key is the approach of teachers and choice of materials. 3. Math, for example, does not need to begin with complex, abstract equations but could instead involve real world scenarios and simple logic. 4. Numbers could be introduced later as children tend to be confused by less grounded concepts. 5. Similarly, philosophy can be approached from a number of mediums, including through stories. 6. Many children’s stories and fables feature curious protagonists and interesting morals. 7. Instead of explicitly instructing children through academic jargon, they can engage with the same questions about life and its origins more directly through the journey of characters in a story.

  1. Write a new topic sentence with a new main idea at the end.
  2. Explain your new main idea.
  3. Include specific details and examples.
  4. Continue developing it…
  5. as fully as possible!
  6. This paragraph can be long.
  7. Finish with a strong statement.

1. In conclusion, despite the risks of theory-heavy subjects for young learners, schools should embrace the challenge and seek less explicit teaching methodologies. 2. This will help form the basis of a well-rounded education.

  1. Summarise your main ideas.
  2. Include a final thought. Read more about conclusions here.

Vocabulary

What do the words in bold below mean? Make some notes on paper to aid memory and then check below.

Many feel that overly rigorous subjects such as mathematics and philosophy should not be mandatory for children. In my opinion, though there is a risk students will struggle to cope, teachers should be able to adapt the subject matter.

One reason these subjects should not be mandatory is they are often too abstract for young children. Numbers themselves are abstract. This is why many children are unable to tell time as it is essentially a metaphorical division of a circle into a clock. Teachers who place too much emphasis on abstract numbers and ideas in their lessons will find that students may become bored because they are unable to grasp the concepts. Philosophy could also become tedious and inefficient if the students lack the cognitive ability to apply general rules and ethical considerations to everyday life. This capacity to recognize and apply abstractions typically develops later in adolescence.

However, these subjects can be made accessible for children. The key is the approach of teachers and choice of materials. Math, for example, does not need to begin with complex, abstract equations but could instead involve real world scenarios and simple logic. Numbers could be introduced later as children tend to be confused by less grounded concepts. Similarly, philosophy can be approached from a number of mediums, including through stories. Many children’s stories and fables feature curious protagonists and interesting morals. Instead of explicitly instructing children through academic jargon, they can engage with the same questions about life and its origins more directly through the journey of characters in a story.

In conclusion, despite the risks of theory-heavy subjects for young learners, schools should embrace the challenge and seek less explicit teaching methodologies. This will help form the basis of a well-rounded education.

Answers

For extra practice, write an antonym (opposite word) on a piece of paper to help you remember the new vocabulary:

overly rigorous too intensive and challenging

mathematics numbers, geometry, calculus, algebra

philosophy the study of life, knowledge, etc.

mandatory compulsory

risk threat

struggle to cope have a tough time handling

adapt change to fit in with

subject matter what is studied in class

reason rationale

abstract not concrete and real

unable can’t do it

tell time as know what time it is because

essentially basically

metaphorical division symbolic cutting up

circle shape of the sun, for example

clock what you put on the wall to tell time

place too much emphasis focus too much on

grasp the concepts understand the ideas

tedious boring

inefficient not a good use of time

lack doesn’t have

cognitive ability mental capacity

apply general rules generalize

ethical considerations moral issues

everyday life daily life

capacity ability

recognize understand

apply abstractions force ideas onto

typically normally

later in adolescence as you get older (into your teenage years)

accessible can understand

key important

approach method

choice of materials what is used in class

complex complicated

equations numbers adding up and subtracting

real world scenarios real life situations

simple logic basic reasoning

introduced later learned after that

confused can’t understand

less grounded concepts too abstract

similarly the same

approached introduced

mediums types of ways

feature have in them

curious protagonists adventurers

morals ethics

academic jargon fancy words

engage with care about

origins where it comes from to begin with

directly clearly

journey adventure

despite regardless of

theory-heavy subjects classes with lots of abstract learning

embrace care about

challenge have difficulty

seek try to find

less explicit more implicit

teaching methodologies ways of teaching

basis foundation

well-rounded education good foundation for learning

Pronunciation

Practice saying the vocabulary below and use this tip about Google voice search:

ˈəʊvəli ˈrɪgərəs 
ˌmæθɪˈmætɪks 
fɪˈlɒsəfi 
ˈmændətəri 
rɪsk 
ˈstrʌgl tuː kəʊp
əˈdæpt 
ˈsʌbʤɪkt ˈmætə
ˈriːzn 
ˈæbstrækt 
ʌnˈeɪbl 
tɛl taɪm æz 
ɪˈsɛnʃəli 
ˌmɛtəˈfɒrɪkəl dɪˈvɪʒən 
ˈsɜːkl 
klɒk
pleɪs tuː mʌʧ ˈɛmfəsɪs 
grɑːsp ðə ˈkɒnsɛpts
ˈtiːdiəs 
ˌɪnɪˈfɪʃənt 
læk 
ˈkɒgnɪtɪv əˈbɪlɪti 
əˈplaɪ ˈʤɛnərəl ruːlz 
ˈɛθɪkəl kənˌsɪdəˈreɪʃənz 
ˈɛvrɪdeɪ laɪf
kəˈpæsɪti 
ˈrɛkəgnaɪz 
əˈplaɪ æbˈstrækʃ(ə)nz 
ˈtɪpɪk(ə)li 
ˈleɪtər ɪn ˌædəʊˈlɛsns
əkˈsɛsəbl 
kiː 
əˈprəʊʧ 
ʧɔɪs ɒv məˈtɪərɪəlz
ˈkɒmplɛks
ɪˈkweɪʃənz 
rɪəl wɜːld sɪˈnɑːrɪəʊz 
ˈsɪmpl ˈlɒʤɪk
ˌɪntrəˈdjuːst ˈleɪtə 
kənˈfjuːzd 
lɛs ˈgraʊndɪd ˈkɒnsɛpts
ˈsɪmɪləli
əˈprəʊʧt 
ˈmiːdiəmz
ˈfiːʧə 
ˈkjʊərɪəs prəʊˈtægənɪsts 
ˈmɒrəlz
ˌækəˈdɛmɪk ˈʤɑːgən
ɪnˈgeɪʤ wɪð 
ˈɒrɪʤɪnz 
dɪˈrɛktli 
ˈʤɜːni 
dɪsˈpaɪt 
ˈθɪəri-ˈhɛvi ˈsʌbʤɪkts 
ɪmˈbreɪs 
ˈʧælɪnʤ 
siːk 
lɛs ɪksˈplɪsɪt 
ˈtiːʧɪŋ ˌmɛθəˈdɒləʤiz
ˈbeɪsɪs 
wɛl-ˈraʊndɪd ˌɛdju(ː)ˈkeɪʃən

Vocabulary Practice

I recommend getting a pencil and piece of paper because that aids memory. Then write down the missing vocabulary from my sample answer in your notebook:

Many feel that o_______________s subjects such as m_______________s and p______________y should not be m___________y for children. In my opinion, though there is a r____k students will s_______________e, teachers should be able to a______t the s__________________r.

One r________n these subjects should not be mandatory is they are often too a__________t for young children. Numbers themselves are abstract. This is why many children are u_______e to t________________s it is e____________y a m______________________n of a c________e into a c_____k. Teachers who p________________________________s on abstract numbers and ideas in their lessons will find that students may become bored because they are unable to g______________________s. Philosophy could also become t_________s and i_______________t if the students l______k the c__________________y to a_____________________________s and e___________________________s to e_____________________e. This c_____________y to r___________e and a_________________________s t_____________y develops l_____________________e.

However, these subjects can be made a______________e for children. The k__y is the a__________h of teachers and c___________________s. Math, for example, does not need to begin with c________x, abstract e_________s but could instead involve r_______________________s and s_____________c. Numbers could be i________________r as children tend to be c____________d by l___________________________s. S___________y, philosophy can be a___________d from a number of m__________s, including through stories. Many children’s stories and fables f_________e c_____________________s and interesting m_______s. Instead of explicitly instructing children through a______________n, they can e_____________h the same questions about life and its o__________s more d________y through the j__________y of characters in a story.

In conclusion, d_________e the risks of t______________________s for young learners, schools should e___________e the c___________e and s_____k l__________________t t__________________________s. This will help form the b______s of a w________________________n.

Listening Practice

Learn more about this topic by watching videos from The New York Times YouTube channel below and practice with these activities:

Reading Practice

Read more about this topic and use these ideas to practice:

https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/18/a-better-way-to-teach-math/

Speaking Practice

Practice with the following speaking questions from the real IELTS speaking exam:

Numbers

  1. Do you have a favourite number?
  2. Will you use numbers at work in the future?
  3. Were you good at math when you were younger?
  4. Do you think numbers are important?

Writing Practice

Practice with the related IELTS essay topic below:

To succeed in a business, one needs to know maths.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?


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