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Dear Students, Meet The Mathematicians Who Fight Disease

If your student is struggling to feel motivated studying math, have them read about the exciting ways mathematicians help keep us healthy.

(If your student is struggling to feel motivated studying algebra or geometry, have them read the following about the exciting ways mathematicians aid healthcare professionals to keep us healthy.)

“Ugh! Not more lines on a graph! How will I ever use all this math I am learning?”

Friend, I totally get it! Throughout high school, I would constantly wonder why I needed to study abstract ideas that seemed so far removed from daily life.

Learning math can sometimes feel impractical and unrewarding. But did you know that public health scientists are at this very moment using math to figure out how to protect us during this coronavirus epidemic?

In fact, there’s a whole field in public health called mathematical epidemiology in which researchers use the kinds of graphs you’re learning about to read to answer questions like, “How long before the number of people infected doubles, and how long before that number doubles again?” Answering questions like these can be a matter of life and death, and by providing this data, researchers are able to help everyone from local governments to hospitals prepare for and respond to challenging situations.

What Does It Look Like to Be a Mathematical Epidemiologist?

In this short video, Dr. Lauren Meyers talks about her job, and how her nerdy childhood science camps and college education prepared her to tackle the complex challenges of public health.

One major job of a mathematical epidemiologist is creating mathematical models to provide hypothetical scenarios that can help us make key decisions. In the short video, the
Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, high school students talk about how they’re using math models to study disease, decide which recycling program is most cost effective, and even figure out what rollercoaster is the most thrilling!

So, Are You Excited About Math Yet?

Can you picture yourself as a mathematical epidemiologist, fighting the spread of disease? Try developing a math model for yourself – start by figuring out what question you want to answer, then decide what the variables will be for your model, and then determine what mathematical concepts you’ll need to find the solutions.

For more on developing your own math models, watch these short videos:

Defining The Problem
Making Assumptions
Defining Variables
Getting A Solution
Analyzing Results
Reporting the Results

Note for Parents and Teachers

The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics has helpful resources on teaching and evaluating mathematical models.

The CDC has put together some online resources for teaching kids about epidemiology.

If your student is struggling to feel motivated studying math, have them read about the exciting ways mathematicians help keep us healthy.

About Anthony Barr

A homeschool graduate who grew up with Math-U-See, Anthony studied history and literature at Eastern University. He currently serves on the marketing team, in addition to teaching and writing.

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