Numeracy in the time of Covid-19: How do the US and Germany compare?

The news are full of large numbers such US surpasses 4 million reported coronavirus cases as hospitalizations near record. Living in the United States but having grown up in Germany I was wondering how do these two countries compare with Covid-19 cases.

The US currently has about 331 million people with about 4.2 million tested positive for Covid-19 (see world odometer). This means that more than one in each 100 people in the United States, or more than 1%, have been tested positive for Covid-19. And this number is rising rapidly rising (

Germany currently has about 83.3 million people with about 207,000 tested positive for Covid-19 (see world odometer). This means that more than two in each 1000 people in Germany, or about .2%, have been tested positive for Covid-19. (

If we consider the United States compared to the World (excluding the United States) we can think through this as follows: Worldwide we are at about 16.5 Million cases of Covid-19 (right now) and the world population is about 7.8 Billion (right now). This means worldwide (outside the US) there are about 12.3 Million cases of Covid-19 and about 7.5 Billion people. To find the rate of Covid-19 outside the US we divide 12.3 Million cases (outside the US) by 7.5 Billion people (outside the US) and get .15% or 1 in 670 people. Thus 1 in each 670 people, or .15% have been tested positive for Covid-19 outside the US. Thus the chance of testing positive for Covid-19 in the United States is 6.7 times as large as outside the US.  

Now let’s consider Germany compared to the World (excluding Germany) we can think through this as follows: Worldwide we are at about 16.5 Million cases of Covid-19 (right now) and the world population is about 7.8 Billion (right now). This means worldwide (outside the Germany) about 1 in each 500 people, or .2% have been tested positive for Covid-19 (16.23 Million cases outside the US divided by 7.7 Billion people outside the US). Thus the chance of testing positive for Covid-19 in Germany about the same as outside of Germany.

For a pictorial version of the above paragraphs see the figure below. In these figures you can see that on the right (Germany) the slice of the top circle represents the portion of the world population that lives in Germany and the slice in the bottom graph represents the portion of Covid-19 in Germany. The two slices are about the same. On the left you can see the same for the US and you can see that the slices are not the same size.

Note: there are many things that can influence this discrepancy, however, this discrepancy is striking and worth exploring.

Mapping Power


(I chose to look at the binary men/women but the structure could be mapped with various criteria. I acknowledge that I am using a binary and inferences made based on names/photos found on PSU’s website which is wholly insufficient!!!!! I highlight the lack of women in power/leadership positions.Below I chart out the power structure from my perspective (a tenured member of the mathematics and statistics department at Portland State University).

More sides to a figure means more power, thus triangle has less power than rectangle, and rectangle has less power than pentagon, etc.

At Portland State University where I work 60 percent of the faculty identifies as women according to

In the mathematics department where I work there are 22 tenure track (TT) faculty, with 20 of the 22 being men (18 tenured, 2 untenured), and 2 women (1 tenured, 1 untenured)

Mathematics and Statistics Department Portland State University 2020 tenure track faculty only

in addition we have 11 non tenure track faculty (NTTF), 9 of these are women and 2 are men.

Mathematics and Statistics Department Portland State University 2020 tenure track and non tenure track faculty.

The yellow dot represents me … and following up the power structure at my university it looks about the same. At the chairs level in my college (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, CLAS) we have 24 departments and programs, of those 24, 18 are chaired by men and 6 by women.

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department Chairs 2020.

Following up the chain of power next come the deans, and here we have 10 deans, with 9 men and 1 woman

Portland State University Deans 2020

Following up the chain of power next comes the provost, this is the only level in the power structure that is dominated by women and also the only level that only has one person in it.

Portland State University Provost 2020

And finally at the highest level of power we have the board of trustees, 14 members, 4 of them women and 10 men. And the president is also a man.

Portland State University Board of Trustees and President 2020

Thus the power structure above me does not represent the 60% of the faculty who identify as women.

Mapping Collaborations

In an effort to understand connectivity to ones home university I have started to map out my collaborators in the United States (this is still in progress). I went through my CV and included everyone I collaborated with on any form of publication or presentation. Here is a visual for the US if you follow the link you can click the dots to see the location. Data points were collaborators, so the darker the spot the more collaborators I worked with in that place. CLICK ON THE MAP TO GET TO AN INTERACTIVE LINK.

And a visual for worldwide

A different way to visualize the same data is to take each publication, presentation as a data point and then map out each of the collaborators for each of them. So while one person would only count once in the charts above, below each person was counted as often as I collaborated with them. This leads to the following maps

In a third version I created the number of collaborations and the names into the chart, as well as whether at the time of publication the collaborator was a graduate student or a faculty member

This map can be used to calculate that about 29% of my collaboration is at Portland State University. This is a mix of 8% with faculty, and 21% with graduate students. The rest of my collaborations are spread across the United States and internationally. In total my collaboration is about 95% in the United States and about 5% international.

Mathematics To Understand and Critique the World

In this PSU funded project (Faculty Enhancement Grant, 2018, $15,000) I developed and explored tasks designed to teach mathematics through understanding and critiquing the world. For example teaching fractions, decimals, and percent through making sense of the world such as what percentage of the world comes from the United States. Students in the United States often do not know what percentage means (comparing the whole to 100 and then cutting the whole into 100 pieces and each of those pieces representing 1 of the 100 pieces or 1 per one hundred, or percent. By shrinking the work down to 100 people and using books or videos to examine those 100 people we can simultaneously learn about the world and about mathematics topics. For more information see LINK

New Podcast Episodes

Mathematics Teacher Educator Podcast – NEW episode

What do the editors of the Mathematics Teacher Educator journal have to say? Listen to them discuss their recent editorials and where the journal is right now.

Teaching Math Teaching Podcast – NEW episode

Brand new Teaching Math Teaching podcast … we are talking with Don Berg who is the Executive Director of Deeper Learning Advocates, which is on a mission to embed the psychology of learning in K-12 policy so that policy stops undermining learning.

Paper published June 1st 2020: Mathematics to Understand and Critique the World: Reconceiving Mathematics in a Mathematics Content Course for Elementary School Teachers.

Published June 1st – for full paper click here


There are long-standing and ongoing calls for making mathematics meaningful, relevant, and applicable outside the classroom. In other words, to help students see mathematics as a tool for understanding, analyzing, and changing the world. However, there are also tensions between a focus on classical mathematics goals and a focus on analyzing and understanding social and political issues, which does not always lend itself to focusing on a specific mathematical concept. In this study, we redesigned a mathematics content course for prospective elementary teachers (PTs) to examine whether we could engage PTs in learning both about the classical mathematics content and about understanding and critiquing the world. We examined their learning in both areas and their evolving views of mathematics teaching throughout the course. We found that PTs learned both the mathematics and about the world and in addition they reconceived of mathematics as a tool to make sense of the world. Thus, mathematics content courses can be designed to allow PTs to develop their knowledge in both areas and experience a classroom where teaching math for social justice is a focus.

view video version of abstract here