Current Practices in Quantitative Literacy presents a wide sampling of efforts being made on campuses across the country to achieve our common goal of having a quantitatively literate citizenry. Colleges and universities have grappled with complicated issues in order to define quantitative literacy within their own communities and to implement appropriate curriculum. It is clear that any quantitative literacy program must be responsive to the local conditions of an institution including its mission, its student clientele, its history and its resources.
Although the programs and courses described in this volume only represent a sample of what is happening in the community, some trends do seem to be apparent. There is consensus that the mathematical skills necessary to be quantitatively literate include elementary logic, the basic mathematics of financial interest, descriptive statistics, finite probability, an elementary understanding of change, the ability to model problems with linear and exponential models, estimation and approximation, and general problem solving. It is clear that many of our students enter college with minimal mastery of these skills and their application.
The essays suggest that we have moved forward a long way in our understanding of quantitative literacy and our ability to implement effective programs to teach it. Read the stories of other institutions who have worked through some of these issues and begin a dialogue on your own campus.
Table of Contents
Introduction, Rick Gillman
History and Context
Some Historical Notes, Linda Sons
Issues, Policies, and Activities in the Movement for Quantitative Literacy, Susan L. Ganter
What Mathematics Should All College Students Know?, William L. Briggs
Interdisciplinary and Interdepartmental Programs
Quantitative Methods for Public Policy, David Bressoud
The Quantitative Requirement at Juniata College, John F. Bukowski
Quantitative Literacy at Dominican University, Paul R. Coe and Sarah N. Ziesler
The Quantitative Reasoning Program at Hollins University, Caren Diefenderfer, Ruth Doan and Christina Salowey
A Decade of Quantitative Reasoning at Kalamazoo College, John B. Fink and Eric D. Nordmoe
Interconnected Quantitative Learning at Farmingdale State, Sheldon Gordon and Jack Winn
Quantitative Reason Across the Curriculum, Beth Haines and Joy Jordan
Mathematics Across the Curriculum, Rebecca Hartzler and Deann Leoni
Math Across the Curriculum at UNR, Jerry Johnson
The Quantitative Literacy Program at Hamilton College, Robert Kantrowitz and Mary B. O’Neill
Quantitative Reasoning at the University of Massachusetts Boston, Maura Mast and Mark Pawlak
Quantitative Literacy Courses
Contribution of a First Year Mathematics Course to Quantitative Literacy, Aimee Ellington and William Haver
Increasing the Relevance to and Engagement of Students in a Quantitative Literacy Course, Sarah J. Greenwald and Holly Hirst
Quantitative Reasoning: An Interdisciplinary, Technology Infused Approach, David Jabon
General Education Mathematics: A Problem Solving Approach, Jesús Jimenez and Maria Zack
Quantitative Reasoning and Informed Citizenship: A Relevant Hands-on Course, Alicia Sevilla and Kay Somers
A QL Program at a Large Public University, Linda Sons
Quantitative Reasoning at Wellesley College, Corrine Taylor
Advising, Assessment, and Other Issues
Designing a QL Program to Match Students Needs and Interests, AbdelNaser Al-Hasan
Quantitative Literacy as an Integral Component of Mathematics Curriculum, Case at North Dakota State University, Doğan Çömez and William O. Martin
A Case Study of Assessment Practices in Quantitative Literacy, Rick Gillman
The Quantitative Literacy Requirement at Alma College, Frances B. Lichtman
Traveling the Road Toward Quantitative Literacy, Richard J. Maher
Quantitative Literacy Course Selection, Carrier Muir
About the Editor
Excerpt: Introduction, Rick Gillman (p. vii)
Quantitative Literacy is one of those things about which we say “I know it when I see it,” but is difficult to describe precisely and concisely. It includes numeracy (an understanding of numbers and magnitude); some geometric, algebraic and algorithmic skills; some problem solving ability; an understanding of probability and statistics; and the ability to quickly capture information, summarize it, and make a decision.
The working definition I find most convenient is the following, extracted from the bylaws of the MAA’s SIMGAA on Quantitative Literacy. (There are alternatives provided in the various essays included in this volume and in related works.)
Quantitative literacy (QL) can be described as the ability to adequately use elementary mathematical tools to interpret and manipulate quantitative data and ideas that arise in individuals’ private, civic, and work lives. As with reading and writing literacy, quantitative literacy is a habit of mind that is best formed by exposure in many contexts.
As mathematicians, it is very tempting to say that being quantitatively literate is equivalent to being more proficient at mathematics, and therefore the solution to developing quantitatively literate citizens is to have them study more mathematics. But this is inherently a poor solution since mathematics is fundamentally about developing and understanding deeper abstractions and connections. Mathematics uses many tools and techniques that, to put it bluntly, do not have much value in the daily world of our fellow citizens. A quantitatively literate citizen will be able to use fairly elementary mathematical tools in sophisticated manners in a wide variety of contexts.
While developing a quantitatively literate citizenry is the responsibility of a much larger community, it is the obligation of the collegiate level mathematics community to take leadership in (a) identifying the prerequisite mathematical skills for QL, (b) finding innovative ways of developing and implanting QL curricula, (c) assisting colleagues in other disciplines to infuse appropriate QL experiences into their courses, and (d) stimulating the national dialogue concerning QL.
With this perspective in mind, the purpose of this volume is to present a wide sampling of the specific efforts being made on campuses across the country to achieve our common goal of having a quantitatively literate citizenry. As you read these essays, you will see the difficulties these colleges and universities have grappled with to define quantitative literacy within their own communities and to implement appropriate curricula. You will also see a wide range of solutions that result because of differing pressures created by the student population being served, the definition that the community accepts, and the pre-existing curricula.
About the Editor
Rick Gillman, Professor of Mathematics and Chair of the Department, has been at Valparaiso University for 19 years. He did his undergraduate and masters work at Ball State University before completing his Doctorate of Arts at Idaho State University in 1986. He has publications in a range of journals including Math Horizons and the CUR Quarterly. Rick’s research area is in combinatorics, with a particular interest in applied problems that can engage undergraduate students. He was the founding director of VU’s annual Celebration of Undergraduate Scholarship. Rick is the editor of A Friendly Mathematics Competition, which chronicles the first 35 years of the Indiana College Mathematics Competition. Rick is a member of the MAA, the Council on Undergraduate Research, and the NCTM. He is active in the MAA at the section level, having served the Indiana Section of the MAA as its Student Chapter Coordinator, Public Information Officer, Secretary-Treasurer, and Chair. He is currently Governor for the section. At the national level, Rick has served as a member of the MAA’s Membership Committee, and as chair of the MAA committee on Quantitative Literacy. He was a founding officer of SIGMAA QL.