Publication Date



Coronavirus, differential equations, epidemic, mathematical modelling, pre- sentation, SIR model, student engagement, visualising solutions, writing


Mathematics | Physical Sciences and Mathematics | Science and Mathematics Education


This is an account of a modelling scenario that uses the sir epidemic model. It was used in a third year applied mathematics subject. All students were enrolled in a mathematics degree of some type. Students are presented with the results of a test carried out on 100 individuals in a community containing 3000 people. From this they determined the number of infectious and recovered individuals in the population. Given the per capita recovery rate and making a suitable assumption about the number of infectious individuals at the start of the epidemic, they then estimate the infectious contact rate and from this the basic reproduction number. The mayor has asked the students to determine what will happen if no action is taken and to evaluate four policy options. They are asked to recommend the best course of action.

This scenario provides students with a problem where parameter values must be inferred from the information provided (one cannot be determined). They use the sir model to provide public health recommendations, reinforcing their appreciation for the usefulness of mathematical modelling.

Our paper gives details of student presentations, and errors on the final exam, along with feedback to and from the instructor and the two student coauthors.



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