Coronavirus & Modelling

Understanding the information we are getting and all the modelling and maths in the news!

Like a lot of people, and mathematics teachers in particular, I am quite consumed by the media frenzy on the current Coronavirus outbreak which, as I write, the WHO have said can be referred to as a Pandemic. Apart from all of the normal thoughts, reactions, curiosity and concern that I am experiencing, I am seeing an incredible demonstration of the application and interpretation of mathematical ideas that this course is designed to explore. So much that it is really hard to keep up with the information flow. I find myself wondering how much of it and how accurately can any of us consume it. Second to the appropriate precautions and reactions is the likelihood that this will result in some material for mathematical activity in our classes. (Not to mention many other DP classes - biology, economics, ToK, geography, ESS, etc. etc.) With the speed of change at the moment, all I want to do on this page is start collating some of the resources I find online. In time they might give rise to more detailed activity.

Exponential Growth and Epidemics

I picked up this video from '3 Blue 1 brown' (A rich channel by the way if you don't know it) when Rebecca Swanson a DP teacher in Abu Dhabi tweeted it this morning. Lovely discussion of growth, logarithmic and logistic modelling in the context of the current outbreak. It really helps to focus on the underlying mathematics and the modelling process. I am going to show it in a ToK maths lesson after we do this  Modelling Spread of Disease simulation.

Simulations on the effects of social distancing

This one is published in the Washington post on March 14 (Pi day!) and offers some very easy to understand simulations about the impact of social distancing. They are random and unique to each page view which means the outcomes change everytime. Excellent in the name of helping understanding.

Numberphile and Ben SParks - Building a model

In this video - 23 Minutes - Ben Sparks from the Numberphile and Maths Inspiration teams talks us through the mathematics and mechanics of actually building the kinds of models that are being used during this current pandemic. As with all these resources, many might find it all a bit too topical and raw, BUT this is the actual occupation of people right now that are helping us to understand the currrent Pandemic and has a key role in hleping us to move past it. This is a terrific tutorial and will allow anyone that watches it to build the model


3 Blue 1 Brown - Simulating an Epidemic

This is another excellently produced and incredibly informative exploration from the peole at 3 blue 1 brown. Their simulators have built all kinds of subtle sophistication in to them so that the impact of different interventions can be explored. The conclusions are quite significant.

Financial Times Coronavirus Tracker

I have been visiting this site (FT coronovirus) regularly since the outbreak began. It is being updated daily and contains some really useful and thoughtful data visualisation  and explanations to help us understand the information we have. Today, I came across this video from the FT's senior data-visulaisation journalist John Burn-Murdoch where he explains some of the thinking and ideas behind the visualisations, including the use of log scales and why they are not working with per capita figures. They have also used moving (rolling) averages. It made me wonder how much there is a need for this kind of explanation with every bit of data visualisation in the news. (click on the image)


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