I am a true believer in teaching math within a context. I am currently working with a researcher on a project that is contextualizing linear, quadratic, exponential, logarithmic, and piece-wise functions for several career field and pop interest fields. We have interviewed people about the math they use in their job and then create real problems.
I came across the article "We're Dumb about Exponential Growth. That's Proving Lethal," and thought about the pandemic. I am conflicted about using it as an example to situation exponential growth because of all the emotions we all have endured over these past few months. So I thought I would reach out to this community for thoughts and support. What are some pros/cons? Do you discuss the math of the pandemic? If so, how?
Exponential growth is rather a big deal in our "Math literacy" course, I'm glad to say. Through the course of the semester it comes up in several different contexts and one of the student projects is to find a real world example of non-linear change, and present to the class.
It is eye-opening to them.
It happens that I was teaching about exponential growth in my Applied Math class just about the time of the pandemic. I always talk about how rumors or stories spread. Someone starts the story by telling two (or 3) friends, each tells two friends, etc. I do a branching tree to show this. Then I talk about how many new people know the rumor. They quickly catch on. This has the added benefit that I can show that x^0=1 since the rumor won't spread if no one starts it. We talked about how this happened with Covid and how it was different from SARs-Co-1 because of how many people an infected person would spread it to. Also, flu, measles, etc. You can find R for these online.