MS math students learn about exponential growth using COVID data
For Thomas Luthy’s eighth grade math students, their lessons about exponential growth and decay included more than just variables and equations. In an inventive lesson, students used real-life data from the COVID-19 pandemic to enhance their understanding of both exponential functions and epidemiological trends. By connecting mathematical principles to hard data, these Labbies are living out John Dewey’s ideal of bringing the real world into the classroom.
“I wanted to connect our Algebra 1 curriculum to real-life data and COVID,” Luthy says, “which has impacted our lives for two years.” Students specifically studied the most recent Omicron surge in Illinois, using data from the CDC to calculate the average weekly rate of change. Using these numbers, they were able to create exponential growth and decay models based on the increases and decreases. Finally, they used graphing calculators to see if their graphs matched the data from the CDC.
In a time of uncertainty and misinformation, being able to use math to understand something as complex as a global pandemic can help students feel a sense of control. Knowing that natural forces can be explained with numbers and graphs helps stress the power of math and science to more deeply comprehend the world. For Luthy, he hopes that the lesson reminded students of something he feels strongly about: “Math is useful and important!”
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