The Mathematics of Vaccine Trials (COVID 19) - a rich context for authentic learning



As the results of the phase three trials for the first successful vaccines against the coronavirus are released, my mind couldn't help but gravitate towards the mathematical nature of the results revealing process. The idea of designing a trial to test for the efficacy and safety of a vaccine is inherently mathematical in nature.

I began to ask myself what are the sort of ways that I could use this situation to teach mathematics to my students and get them more interested in the mathematical content and the theory behind this type of situation. The most obvious tie up is in the area of data and probability and understanding how scientists leverage established knowledge in this area, to design effective vaccine trials.

Here are a list of articles I found and some questions I thought of, that may be of use if I was to develop this idea further. Please feel free to add your comments below if you have some ideas for questions you could add, as this was just a quick 20 min blog post to make sure I didn't forget the basic idea. 

Descriptions in the Media 

Inquiry Based Questions for Class Discussion 

  • What are the main numbers involved in the study? 
  • What are the main mathematical ideas involved in the study?
  • What are the main protocols or rules that the studies follow?
  • Why are medical trials considered to give such good evidence for problems like COVID 19? 


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