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How do viruses spread through a population? From ebola to bird flu, humans are surrounded by deadly viruses. Given the ubiquity of air travel, it isn’t surprising when people die from a virus; instead, it’s surprising that not everyone has yet!

In this lesson, students use exponential growth and logarithms to model how a virus spreads through a population and evaluate how various factors influence the speed and scope of an outbreak.

Students will

  • Write an equation to represent exponential growth; describe the effect of each parameter on the overall model
  • Solve exponential equations using a variety of methods, including logs

Before you begin

The more difficult questions in this lesson require using the formula for the sum of a finite geometric series or a spreadsheet to perform the same calculations recursively. This lesson provides an opportunity for students who have learned about the formula for the sum of a finite geometric series to apply it.

Common Core Standards

Content Standards
Mathematical Practices

Additional Materials

  • Graphing calculators or spreadsheets