Mathematics during the pandemic

Editor's Note

WISAARKHU Volume 2 aims to provide a diversity, not necessarily a jointly exhaustive collection, of perspectives of Mathematics during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic with many uncertainties, the transition to online learning, teaching, and assessment requires extraordinary efforts of all learners, all students, all teachers, all lecturers, and all parents/guardians. This transition may not be easy; it may not be perfect. However, there may be a unique opportunity to rethink our approaches to teaching and learning and assessment of Mathematics for the benefit of all.  Much may be accomplished through working together and having realistic expectations of each other, including ourselves.

Within this context, the second volume of WISAARKHU includes contributions on 4 main subthemes, namely, experiences of the pandemic within and beyond mathematics, mathematical modelling of the pandemic, online offering of mathematics during the pandemic, and protecting mental health during the pandemic.

It is a magazine for inspiring with ideas and successful approaches, for creating awareness, for sharing experiences, for communicating, for connecting, and for reflecting.

It is not a research journal. It does not purport to endorse any particular opinion or approach to the learning and teaching of mathematics. Its readership is intended for all from across the globe with an interest in mathematics.

Each perspective expressed in the content of WISAARKHU is that of the author. It does not purport to reflect the opinions of the editor or Stellenbosch University or the affiliations of the authors.

No matter your interest in or experience of Mathematics, I hope you will read this magazine acknowledging the intention with which it has been written.

Prof. Ingrid Rewitzky

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Department of Mathematical Sciences, Stellenbosch University, South Africa

TOPIC 1: Experiencing the pandemic across disciplines


Aishwarya Viswamitra is a student in India who writes about the frustrations she, and many other scientists, are experiencing about the public’s blind following of popular news, that has not been scientifically proven. She highlights the dangers for the public and urges scientific and educational institutions to make their information...

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What we can learn from the history of epidemics

Professor Howard Phillips is a well-respected emeritus faculty at the University of Cape Town. History of epidemics/pandemics is one of the areas in which he has worked extensively. His book 'Plague, Pox And Pandemics : A Jacana Pocket History of Epidemics in South Africa' traces the history of South Africa...

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What I learnt about learning under lockdown from 620 children (VIDEO)

Illustration by Cayla Basson Jonathan Jansen is Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Stellenbosch and the President of the Academy of Science of South Africa.  He started his career as a Biology teacher and holds a PhD from Stanford as well as honorary doctorates from Edinburgh, Vermont, Cleveland...

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Covid-19 Economics for South Africa: Five Key Facts

Without an effective vaccine, resuming economic activity risks an increase in the number of Covid-19 infections and deaths. In this article, Haroon Bhorat campaigns for intercommunication between economists and epidemiologists as he discusses 5 truths around the impact of Covid-19 and lockdown measures on the South African economy.

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Different testing techniques for COVID-19 (VIDEO)

Yannick von Grabowiecki is a Postdoctoral researcher in the Tumour Suppressors group from Cancer Research UK. Usually, he works on proteins regulating cell survival in tumours. Recently though, he volunteered to participate in COVID-19 testing in a UK national test center, which is why he will speak about the different...

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Creative initiatives that have resulted from the pandemic (VIDEO)

Lourens van Niekerk is a Bachelor of Science Honours student in Mathematics at Stellenbosch University. He lives on a farm with his pet warthog. Lourens and his family have been creating fashionable face masks and selling them to their community. They have also created a daily tracking system during lockdown...

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Berkley’s Critique of Calculus

In this sequel, Adam Schroeder argues that despite its pristine appearance in textbooks and the classroom, mathematics is a human endeavour, often stimulated by debate and controversy. He suggests that the critique of Isaac Newton’s work on differential calculus by the 18th century Irish philosopher, Bishop George Berkley, triggered the...

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More coming soon!

TOPIC 2: The mathematics of the pandemic

More coming soon!

TOPIC 3: On teaching mathematics during a pandemic

Learning, unlearning and relearning

Claire Blackman writes about the importance of transparency, empathy and providing guidance and feedback in the online space, which offers many possibilities for learning, unlearning...

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When teaching goes remote

Dimitri Dias discussing the issues and opportunities available with online teaching, and ponders the best way to evaluate student learnings from afar.

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More coming soon!

About the Cover

This painting symbolizes the feeling of being trapped inside and not knowing what the future holds. But we still fly and go forward. The bird is flying towards the light to abandon the darkness.

TOPIC 4: Assessing mathematics during a pandemic

Some ideas for online assessment

Dirk Basson shares his journey of exploring relevant and effective assessment tools with online learning. He considers the underlying reasons for assessing our students and...

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More coming soon!

TOPIC 5: On learning mathematics during a pandemic

Studying mathematics during lockdown

Brilliant advice of creating SMART goals and asking for advice from lecturers and family. —Ingrid Rewitzky Illustration by Nino Mekanarishvili Sekwanele Kubheka writes about the...

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My Lockdown Experience

Anuoluwa Esther Makinde reflects on her studies and life during COVID-19. During this time she has been able to enhance her studies as well as...

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Lockdown experience

Yandiswa Mdlikisa discusses the life of online learning during COVID-19 while navigating home responsibilities, family, and academics.

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Persevering amidst the darkness

Triven Govender offers some practical advice to his fellow students regarding distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is light at the end of this...

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More coming soon!

TOPIC 6: Protecting mental health during a pandemic

More coming soon!