How long should a town be locked down to eliminate an infectious disease?

Publication Name

International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology


In the past, my mathematics students have frequently complained at any suggestion that they should communicate ideas through the medium of a written report. This article discusses student responses when they were asked to write a short report for the mayor of a (hypothetical) small town in response to the mayor's plan to eliminate a contagious disease by locking the town down for three weeks. I discuss the approaches that students took in constructing their reports and summarize some of the great ideas that they had. Many students could see the parallel between what they were asked to do in the assignment and concurrent discussions in the communities that they came from with regard to the spread of COVID-19. The idea that mathematicians might have to communicate ideas in the form of a written report was not dismissed out of hand. I also reflect on ways in which the learning experience could have been improved. This hinges on providing a mechanism by which an individual student has the opportunity to read the reports of all the other students.

Open Access Status

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