Exponentials and Ebola

Published by MrHonner on

My latest piece for the New York Times Learning Network is a lesson on the underlying mathematics of the spread of contagious diseases, like Ebola.ebola map

In this lesson, students use a basic exponential model to explore the fundamental mathematical ideas of transmission and replication.

Mathematically, the spread of disease can be modeled in a manner similar to the spread of a rumor. Although a number of simplifying assumptions must be made, the simple exponential model captures the basic impact of transmission rates on the dispersion of a disease among a population. Students can explore the consequences of transmission rate using multiplication, algebra, graphing utilities and elementary statistics.

After exploring the essential behavior of various simple exponential models, students then compare real-world data to their theoretical models.  Those that are capable can perform regressions on the data to approximate actual transmission rates.  The students’ work and the real-world data establish a context for discussing the strengths and weaknesses of this simple model of disease transmission.

This lesson is part of a series of Ebloa lessons at the NYT Learning Network and is freely available here.

1 Comment

Amy Hogan · November 17, 2014 at 8:22 am

Patrick, I included your great lesson plan in my roundup of Ebola Math resources.

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