Innovative Ways to Make Coronavirus a Teachable Moment

Apr 5, 2020 by

When the world feels dangerous, harnessing learning can provide some measure of clarity and perspective.

Frank Wang

By Sarah Gonser

The massive public health challenge of Covid-19, in spite of its many unknowns, offers teachers the unique instructional opportunity to tap into students’ innate curiosity about the virus and deliver lessons that are timely, prompt kids to dig deep, and—ideally—provide a modicum of comfort during a time of alarming headlines and copious misinformation.

From simple concepts that work well for younger kids—like why hygiene matters and how germs spread—to more complex topics like ethical decision-making, the science behind how viral infections work, or the mathematics underpinning pandemics—teachers are finding ways to help kids rise above the noise with unique, thoughtful lessons.

THE MATH BEHIND PANDEMICS

Math, often considered a strictly rational discipline, can play an important emotional and psychological role during uncertain times, giving students productive tools to battle fear and misinformation.

Frank Wang, a math teacher and the president of Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics, began teaching kids the math of epidemics during a summer program he taught in 2010 to students from Clark County, Nevada. At the time, it seemed like a lively way to make math more compelling to the middle school students enrolled in the program. Now, he’s showcasing some of that content on Facebook and providing resources for middle and high school students to grapple with the mathematics behind how an epidemic grows and spreads.

School President and math teacher uses COVID-19 to keep students learning during pandemic

“What’s unfolding is a catastrophe, but it’s also a time to share rich math and teach about the concepts of calculus—the mathematics of change. For young people, it can be a way to motivate their learning of mathematics,” says Wang. “Where teaching about exponential growth might have them scratching their heads in the classroom, now we can show that these models are being used in hospitals to calculate things like: how many ventilators, or how many hospital beds, will they need?”

In one scenario, Wang uses the Las Vegas strip as ground zero for a worldwide epidemic. “Forty million people visit that little patch of land. They stay a couple days and then go back home,” says Wang. “Kids can play around with these models and change the parameters—like the incubation period or mortality rate.”

Source: Innovative Ways to Make Coronavirus a Teachable Moment | Edutopia

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