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New York Times Offers Ebola Math Lesson For Teachers

New York Times Offers Ebola Math Lesson For Teachers

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has become a hot topic of conversation all across the world, and children will be wondering what this means to their lives and the country's well-being. 

The New York Times is offering teachers this new lesson to use mathematics in the classroom to explain the spread of disease and teach students how to create a model of an epidemic in a recent article on the publication's The Learning Network.

"In this lesson, students explore the fundamental mathematical concepts underlying the spread of contagious diseases," said the Times. Using a simple exponential model, students compare and contrast the effects of different transmission rates on a population and develop an understanding of the nature and characteristics of exponential growth. Students can then compare their projections with actual Ebola data from West Africa, to create context for analyzing the strengths and limitations of this simplified model."

Students will need to have Internet access and graphing capabilities, the article said, and students will begin the activity by "reading The New York Times’s Ebola Facts page. Students can quickly learn about where Ebola comes from, what the symptoms are, and how contagious the virus is."

"Ask students to think about why it is important to understand how a disease spreads, and how that knowledge can be used to help treat victims and respond to an epidemic," said the Times.

Students will read the article, "As Ebola Spreads, So Have Several Fallacies," and then will answer a number of questions:

  • How can the flu transmitted?
  • How can Ebola be transmitted?
  • What makes a virus an “airborne” virus?
  • What kinds of symptoms do flu and Ebola victims share?
  • What kinds of symptoms do flu victims suffer than Ebola victims generally do not?

Students will then participate in an activity where they will "explore the behavior of exponential functions by using them to model the spread of disease," the article said.

"Begin by asking students to consider how a rumor might spread among a population," the article said. "Suppose on Day 1 a single person tells someone else a rumor, and suppose that on every subsequent day, each person who knows the rumor tells exactly one other person the rumor. Have students ponder, discuss and answer questions like: 'How many days until 50 people have heard the rumor? 100 people? The whole school? The whole country?'"

See the full lesson and comment below. 

Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor

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