The Mathematics of COVID-19

As you know from my recent post, my colleague Joyce and I will be co-teaching a short unit on the mathematics of COVID-19 this summer. But what topics should it include, and in what order, and how will students learn the material, given the constraints of online teaching?

Since this is so new to all of us, I suppose we could just make it up as we go along. But that’s definitely not my style, nor is it Joyce’s. We need some tight planning, not only because it’s all new but also because the entire unit will last just a week and a half, which doesn’t leave much time for talking off the cuff.

Some resources will be helpful — necessary, in fact — if we’re going to do any well-informed planning. Fortunately, plenty of relevant online resources are available. Did I say “plenty”? Too many, in fact. A hundred different choices could be made for this plan, and there’s no way to select the perfect resource. Let’s just pick a couple to start and go from there. My not-so-extensive research has led me to the two best resources (or at least the two that I will consider the best at this time):

The first of these resources is actually a compilation of a dozen or so links to other documents. At this point I just want to recommend one of those links, “Maths in a minute: R0 and herd immunity,” an article by esteemed math educator Marianne Freiberger, in which she clearly and concisely explains the mathematics of two concepts that we have been hearing so much lately. The second link is a video animation that demonstrates through dynamic simulations how epidemics work and what happens when you tweak various variables (they are variables, after all) such as social distancing.

That’s enough for today, but more will come as the spring and summer progress.

Categories: Math, Teaching & Learning