Lessons on Coronavirus

While Princeton University has moved to virtual instruction up till April 5, Sarah Schwartz shares in EducationWeek lesson plans for science, math, and media literacy from K-12 schools. One lesson graphs world data on Coronavirus from the World Health Organization. Another looks at possible sparks of prejudice against Asians because of the outbreak and why such a reaction has no scientific basis. And a third one encourages not just to repeat what is seen in social media, but actually evaluate whether these are simply exaggerated or real.

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The current outbreak is a real threat but during these times, reliable information is a must. There are a lot of numbers involved so the data do provide an opportunity to construct math lessons. Take, for instance the following graph that explains why slowing down an epidemic is helpful.

The above illustrates how nonpharmaceutical interventions (frequent washing of hands, staying home if one is not feeling well, covering coughs and sneezes, social distancing, cleaning frequently touched surfaces or objects) can reduce the intensity of an outbreak. These interventions not only reduce the overall number of cases but, more importantly, the peak number of cases which can overwhelm hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

Here is another graph showing the rate of confirmed coronavirus cases and death in China and the rest of the world (ROW):

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The cases and deaths are slowing down in China. Unfortunately, there is still acceleration in the rest of the world. But graphs can also bring hope, as the number of cases in South Korea seems to be starting to reach a plateau:

We hope that we are indeed near the peak. It is at these times that good information and data are paramount. It is at these times that we should teach why washing our hands is important. These, however, are not just good lessons for today, but for everyday.