Exploring Israeli high school graduates’ explanations for the spread of the coronavirus

Sigal Hava Rotem, Michal Ayalon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The aim of this study is to explore Israeli high school graduates’ mathematical explanations for the spread of the coronavirus, given that the mathematics required to do so was part of their school curriculum. An online questionnaire consisting of two sections provided a variety of potential framings for explaining the phenomenon. The first section invited the participants to explain the spread of the coronavirus in terms of their school majors in general, with no specific reference to mathematics. The second section asked explicitly to explain the mathematical context underlying the phenomenon. In this section, the participants were asked to discuss the Prime Minister’s speech given in the media a few weeks earlier, in which he described the spread of the coronavirus as a geometric series. Data analysis of 87 participants’ responses to the questionnaire revealed 11 different mathematical ideas used to explain the spread of the coronavirus. These ideas included are as follows: doubling, sequence, exponential growth, using powers, tree diagram, recursion, fast-growing rate with covariation, probability, parabola and quadratic function, acceleration, and factorial. It was also found that the second section of the questionnaire elicited a wider range of mathematical ideas than the first one. We suggest possible explanations for the emergence of the mathematical ideas, which seem to reflect the graduates’ intuitive knowledge, influenced not only by their mathematics track level but also by their chosen high school majors. Possible implications are discussed.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)161-181
Number of pages21
JournalEducational Studies in Mathematics
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Exponential growth
  • High school graduates&#8217
  • High school graduates’ mathematical explanations
  • Mathematical explanations of realistic phenomenon
  • mathematical explanations

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • General Mathematics


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