The Conversation: How to flatten the curve of coronavirus, a mathematician explains. “This general concept of slowing the virus’s spread has been termed “flattening the curve” by epidemiologists – experts who study how often diseases occur in different populations, and why. The term has become widespread on social media as the public is encouraged to practise ‘social distancing’. But how does social distancing help to flatten the curve? We can explain by referring to what mathematicians call ‘exponential growth’.