Source: hard-for-people-to-understand-covid-19-coronavirus/ by Mr J Chambers


2020 and 2021 have been both interesting and turbulent.

Shifting from classroom to online learning and balancing these ever-changing challenges has been a rollercoaster. Well done to the students who have managed to adapt and persevere during these unpredictable times.

Because of COVID, many of our usual competitions and activities have been delayed or cancelled. However, in those still running, like the online Australian Mathematics Competition, Columba students have once again performed admirably.

Amidst all the uncertainty and shifting landscape there has been some sneaky mathematical literacy education. Words such as exponential growth, flattening the curve, relative risk, and how to make heads or tails of some of these funky looking graphs have come to the forefront. Being able to interpret and digest this wave of numbers has become a normal part of everyday life, just like the 1pm update.

In the graph attached, how many people noticed the logarithmic y-axis scale? It is increasing by a factor of 10 each time and doesn’t start at zero. How many can mentally translate that to an accurate non-logarithmic display? Many people can have an intuitive sense for linear patterns but we often attribute linear properties to non-linear patterns as well.

One of the most common questions we get asked, as teachers, is “When will I ever need this in real life?” Five years ago, who would have predicted the current situation and the mathematical literacy required to get our heads around the ever-changing presentation of numbers, graphs, and other statistics, to gain a better understanding of what is happening in New Zealand and the rest of the world.

“Math is a part of almost everything we do. But someone who missed out on mathematical concepts won’t see it, even though we are surrounded by it. My take on the cavalier attitude about COVID-19 is that they don’t understand what they are seeing well enough to interpret it correctly.” Dr. Julie Pierce

Although, we may not use every mathematical skill we have learnt, in the future, the pandemic has shown us that it is impossible to predict which ones might, one day, prove useful. At Columba, we strive to create mathematically literate and numerate students who are ready to head out into the wider world and have the skills and knowledge base to be able to adapt to whatever mathematical challenge they might encounter. Who knows, perhaps understanding how an exponential function works might help to save a lot of people?

Mr J Chambers

HoD Mathematics and Statistics