Sustainability in a Differential Equations Course: A Case Study of Easter Island
International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science & Technology
Easter Island is a fascinating example of resource depletion and population collapse, and its relatively short period of human habitation combined with its isolation lends itself well to investigation by students in a first-semester ordinary differential equations course. This article describes curricular materials for a semester-long case study into environmental and sustainability issues in the history of Easter Island. Using results that appeared in recent journal articles, students investigate the date of arrival of early settlers, the impact they had on natural resources through population growth as well as through the introduction of non-native species, and the effect of European diseases on the population.