Sharing Jordan Ellenberg’s corona virus testing article with kids

Jordan Ellenberg had a great article about corona virus testing in the NYT last week:

The idea of group testing is fascinating all by itself, but it also has some great math lessons for kids in it. I thought it would be fun to introduce some of those ideas to the boys this morning.

We started with a quick explanation of group testing and then looked at a simple case – a group of 16 with 1 person having the virus:

Now we looked at a slightly more complicated case – 100 people and 10 have the virus. It turned out to be a little more difficult to understand than I was expecting, but they made some great progress understanding the ideas as we talked through this case:

Next I had them read and study Ellenberg’s article for about 10 min. Here are their reactions and some of the ideas they thought were important.

It was really cool to hear their ideas about the article. This project help me understand that the group testing idea is harder to grasp than I realized. After a few examples, though, I think Ellenberg’s article was accessible to the boys and helped them understand how / why group testing could be an important step in dealing with the pandemic.