A Topical Listing
The list below of mathematics topics, IF LACED WITH GOOD
APPLICATIONS, addresses all of the issues raised in Part II at
least minimally. Although the topics are displayed here according
to subject matter components of traditional mathematics curricula,
one should NOT infer that this is the best organization with
which to address quantitative literacy . In fact, this kind of layer-cake organization
may inhibit the very essence of quantitative literacy : encouraging multiple
perspectives; informally developing intuition; and searching for
connections. It may actually deepen the pitfall of just preparing for
the next course. Nevertheless, the list suggests a common ground
from which to begin. How much time will need to be spent on topics
that the students have studied before will depend on circumstances,
but deadly reviews of more or less familiar material should be
avoided. (* means "less essential")
- percentage change
- use of calculator:
rounding and truncation errors; order of operations.
- measurement: units and
conversion of systems; length; area; volume.
- "familiar'' shapes: rectangles, triangles, circles, cubes, cones, cylinders,
spheres, the Pythagorean relationship.
- angles: slopes of
lines; parallel and perpendicular lines; right angles; similarity.
- complex shapes: approximation by "familiar" shapes; solution
region for a system of linear inequalities in the plane.
- linear equations: equations
in one unknown; systems in two unknowns; methods of solution.
- graphs and tables: constructing;
reading, interpreting; extrapolating from; the notions of direct and
- simple exponents: roots and powers;
products and quotients with a common base.
- concept of
function: constructing discrete and continuous functions; graphical
representation of functions; zeros of functions.
- experimental probability:
counting; mutually exclusive and independent events.
displays of data: pie and bar charts; frequency polygons; visual
impact of scale changes.
- central tendency and spread:
comparison of data sets using mean, median, mode and standard
deviation, quartile deviation, range; percentile rank.
- the idea
of correlation: measuring and evaluating the relationship between
- common sources of error: sampling error;
misinterpreting averages or probabilities; invalid comparison
distributions; statistical significance; statistical "proof''.
random sampling: the count-recount technique; polls; lotteries; fair
- linear fit: comparison of fit of two lines to a
- quality control: the binomial distribution.
- confidence intervals*: interval estimates; the
standard error of the mean.
- exponential change
- rates: comparison
of average rates of change.
sequential thinking; construction; relationship to formulas.
- optimization: the notions of maxima and minima of functions with
or without constraints; graphical and computational methods for
finding them; simple analytic methods, such as completing the
square for quadratic polynomials.
- linear programming*:
systems of equations in two variables with a linear objective
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© 1998 The Mathematical Association of America
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