Normal plant growth requires the anisotropic expansion of cells and the proper orientation of their divisions. Both are controlled by the architecture of the cortical microtubule array. Cortical microtubules interact through frequent collisions. Several modelling studies have shown that these interactions can be sufficient for spontaneous alignment. Further requirements to this self-organization are the homogeneous distribution of microtubule density and reliable control over the array orientation. We review the contribution of computer simulations and mathematical modelling on each of these challenges. These models now provide a good understanding of the basic alignment mechanism and will continue to be very useful tools for investigating more advanced questions, for example how microtubule severing contributes to alignment and array reorientation.