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Current Practices in Quantitative Literacy

Current Practices in Quantitative Literacy

edited by Rick Gillman
Series: MAA Notes
Volume: 70
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: 1
Pages: 200
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Current Practices in Quantitative Literacy
    Book Description:

    Current Practices in Quantitative Literacy present 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-88385-978-0
    Subjects: Mathematics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Introduction
    (pp. vii-x)
    Rick Gillman

    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 SIGMAA on Quantitative Literacy. (There are alternatives provided in the various essays included in this volume and in related...

  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. History and Context

    • Some Historical Notes
      (pp. 3-10)
      Linda Sons

      The classic children’s book “The Little Engine that Could” provides an interesting framework to use in reflecting on the movements in the past which have led up to the quantitative literacy programs at colleges and universities today. Whether there was a “happy” train to begin with which was trying to haul “toys and food to the other side of the mountain” is an unanswered question, but certainly there were some “well-intentioned” trains which had engines that either stopped “with a jerk” or slowed to a crawl while yearning for the aid of other engines.

      In looking at quantitative literacy through...

    • Issues, Policies, and Activities in the Movement for Quantitative Literacy
      (pp. 11-16)
      Susan L. Ganter

      We live in a society filled with quantitative information about social, economic, and medical issues that are critical to decisions we make. In this technological age, the average citizen is confronted with a wealth of quantitative knowledge that can be overwhelming and often misleading or incorrect (Cox, 2000). Many examples exist in areas as diverse as developing a budget for the AIDS crisis in South Africa, religion, sales profits, college rankings, and politics.

      This fundamental change in how our culture shares information requires that every citizen attain a high level of quantitative literacy (QL). Yet students still learn quantitative skills...

    • What Mathematics Should All College Students Know?
      (pp. 17-20)
      William L. Briggs

      Marie and Alex just paid $250,000 for a house. They made a down payment of $50,000 and assumed a 30-year $200,000 mortgage with a fixed annual interest rate of 7.50% compounded monthly. The house will serve as a residence for several years, but Marie and Alex also view it as an investment, as property values in the neighborhood are projected to increase at a rate of 5% per year in the near future. Suppose the couple sells the house after eight years. Neglecting income tax deductions, do they come out ahead on their investment?

      This question doesn’t sound like one...

  5. Interdisciplinary and Interdepartmental Programs

    • Quantitative Methods for Public Policy
      (pp. 23-28)
      David Bressoud

      What is quantitative literacy? How do you teach it? How do you measure it? How can you develop a program that will ensure that all undergraduates have it by the time they graduate? During the academic year 2001–02, faculty from Macalester College wrestled with these questions and found answers. These have led to a pilot program, Quantitative Methods for Public Policy (QM4PP), that is currently running at Macalester with funding from the Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education and the National Science Foundation’s Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Instruction program.

      The QM4PP program is interdisciplinary. It...

    • The Quantitative Requirement at Juniata College
      (pp. 29-34)
      John F. Bukowski

      Juniata College is a small liberal arts institution with a strong reputation in the sciences, especially biology and chemistry. In fact, about half of each entering class intends to major in one of these two subjects. About 23 percent of Juniata students do complete a major in biology/pre-health. This context has an impact on the institutional understanding of quantitative literacy.

      Before 1994, Juniata College had in its curriculum a computer literacy requirement, which was satisfied by the course “Introduction to Computing,” offered by the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science (MACS). This course contained work with Minitab and some spreadsheets,...

    • Quantitative Literacy at Dominican University
      (pp. 35-40)
      Paul R. Coe and Sarah N. Ziesler

      At Dominican University, in the context of a complete review of the undergraduate general education requirements, we have been able to add a Quantitative Literacy component to our curriculum. In this paper we will describe what that Qualitative Literacy component is, what it has done to departmental enrollments, our struggles with advising and placement, assessment of our program, and some outstanding problems.

      Dominican University currently consists of an undergraduate college and four graduate schools (Business, Education, Library and Information Science, and Social Work) with an enrollment of about 2,800 students (1,200 of whom are undergraduates). In 1997, the school changed...

    • The Quantitative Reasoning Program at Hollins University
      (pp. 41-50)
      Caren Diefenderfer, Ruth Doan and Christina Salowey

      An intelligent citizen reads a newspaper account of an outbreak of disease in a small community. How can she tell if the number of those afflicted looms out of proportion to the expected incidence of disease? A parent must choose whether or not his child will receive a smallpox vaccine. How can he evaluate the benefits and the risks of such an inoculation? An employer asks an employee to develop a profile of the local population to provide a foundation for a marketing campaign. How can the employee assess the significance of distributions of age, race, gender, or other categories...

    • A Decade of Quantitative Reasoning at Kalamazoo College
      (pp. 51-54)
      John B. Fink and Eric D. Nordmoe

      In 1996 Kalamazoo College revised its General Education Program. Until this reform the science requirement could be satisfied by taking any three courses from the Division of Natural Sciences, as long as not all were from the Department of Mathematics. There was no specific mathematics or quantitative reasoning requirement. Among the reforms of 1996 was a reduction of the number of courses in the Division of Natural Sciences from three to two, and the introduction of a new Quantitative Reasoning (QR) requirement.

      One of the reasons for introducing this new requirement was the ubiquity of quantitative information in contemporary society....

    • Interconnected Quantitative Learning at Farmingdale State
      (pp. 55-62)
      Sheldon Gordon and Jack Winn

      In recent years, the economy of the Long Island region has been completely transformed. What had been, since the late 1940s, a base of a handful of large defense contractors such as the Grumman Corporation has changed to a large number of relatively small to medium sized high-technology corporations. Simultaneously, Farmingdale State University of New York has itself undergone a total change in its mission and the underlying academic culture. The college has evolved from a two-year agricultural and technical college to a four- year university college of technology with eighteen baccalaureate programs and twelve associate degree programs. Most of...

    • Quantitative Reasoning Across the Curriculum
      (pp. 63-68)
      Beth Haines and Joy Jordan

      Lawrence University (LU), with an enrollment of 1350 students, is a selective undergraduate college of liberal arts and sciences with a conservatory of music. Following a 15-year hiatus, LU reviewed its general education requirements (GERs) and in 2000 adopted new multidimensional GERs. These include three components: competency requirements (in foreign language, quantitative reasoning, speaking, and writing), distribution requirements, and diversity requirements. The GERs went into effect in fall 2001 so the class of 2005 was the first to graduate under the new requirements. In this article, we discuss Lawrence’s successes and challenges in implementing its new quantitative reasoning requirement. We...

    • Mathematics Across the Curriculum
      (pp. 69-74)
      Rebecca Hartzler and Deann Leoni

      The Mathematics Across the Curriculum Project (MAC) hosted by Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood, Washington, began in 1999. The project was initially created to support the Quantitative Skills College Wide Ability, identified by the faculty of the college in the early 1990s as one of four key learning outcomes for students graduating with a two-year transfer degree. In the summer of 1999, Rebecca Hartzler, a physics instructor and one of the two current project coordinators, was asked by the college to perform a literature survey on quantitative reasoning/literacy projects and practices across the country. The survey revealed two projects, one...

    • Math Across the Curriculum at UNR
      (pp. 75-80)
      Jerry Johnson

      Math Across the Curriculum, conceived at the University of Nevada, Reno in 1993, aims to improve students’ quantitative skills and appreciation of mathematics by integrating quantitative components into a variety of courses in the university’s core curriculum.

      Math Across the Curriculum was modeled on UNR’sWriting Across the Curriculumprogram, whose goal was to make the learning of good writing a “shared responsibility” across disciplines. In the same way, Math Across the Curriculum seeks to improve students’ quantitative skills and their attitudes toward mathematics by making quantitative learning a shared responsibility.

      As the name indicates, the original concept was math...

    • The Quantitative Literacy Program at Hamilton College
      (pp. 81-86)
      Robert Kantrowitz and Mary B. O’Neill

      Hamilton College is a small, residential, private liberal arts college with an enrollment of approximately 1700 undergraduate students, most of whom live on campus. The College is in the process of implementing a new academic curriculum, beginning with the class of 2005. Distribution requirements have been eliminated. Through a strengthened relationship with their advisors, students are encouraged to assume more responsibility for constructing their own course schedule based on their plans, goals, and interests. Apart from completing a concentration, or major, the new curriculum features only a sophomore seminar requirement, three writing-intensive courses, and the quantitative literacy and physical education...

    • Quantitative Reasoning at the University of Massachusetts Boston
      (pp. 87-94)
      Maura Mast and Mark Pawlak

      After years of watching students graduate from the University without taking a math course or having failed a math course when they did attempt one, a group of faculty at the University of Massachusetts Boston recently began to seriously address the following problems: How could they teach meaningful mathematics to students who do not like mathematics and who think that mathematics has no place in their lives? How could they better prepare students for the work they will do at the University? How could they help students to be better members of their communities, able to process and analyze the...

  6. Quantitative Literacy Courses

    • Contribution of a First Year Mathematics Course to Quantitative Literacy
      (pp. 97-104)
      Aimee Ellington and William Haver

      Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) offers a first year mathematics course that is taken annually by approximately 2100 students and has the goal of making an important contribution to the quantitative reasoning abilities of these students. While no one course alone can create a quantitatively literate citizen, and many courses and programs should contribute to this development, mathematics departments can take the lead by assuring that their own courses, indeed, make a strong contribution to developing student quantitative reasoning abilities.

      VCU has had a mathematics requirement in place for all undergraduate majors since the creation of the university in 1968. Until...

    • Increasing the Relevance to and Engagement of Students in a Quantitative Literacy Course
      (pp. 105-110)
      Sarah J. Greenwald and Holly Hirst

      For the last fourteen years, the Mathematical Sciences Department at Appalachian has offered MAT1010: Introduction to Math as a core mathematics course for non-technical majors. This course was designed to accomplish several goals:

      to engage students, alone and in teams, in solving real-life problems using the mathematics they were taught in high school;

      to show students authentic, useful applications of technology, mainly using computers; and

      to teach students how to write about technical information, including techniques for incorporating graphs, tables, and other mathematical structures in written documents.

      In 1991, we began the development of course materials that would lend themselves...

    • Quantitative Reasoning: An Interdisciplinary, Technology Infused Approach
      (pp. 111-118)
      David Jabon

      The Quantitative Reasoning course at DePaul University grew out of a major reexamination of the general education program for undergraduates in 1995–96. Like many universities in the 1990s, DePaul University wished to strengthen the mathematics skills of its graduates and was willing to add additional mathematics requirements for its students. The question that the faculty had to address was, what mathematical skills should an undergraduate who is not majoring in Mathematics, Science, or Business have?

      Universities across the country came up with a variety of solutions. A simple and sometimes adequate approach is to require college algebra and one...

    • General Education Mathematics: A Problem Solving Approach
      (pp. 119-124)
      Jesús Jimenez and Maria Zack

      Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU) is a Christian liberal arts institution founded in 1902. Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, PLNU offers Baccalaureate degrees (BA, BS, and BSN) in over 40 majors and several Master’s degrees. The university has a history of strong programs in the sciences, nursing and education.

      Situated on the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean, PLNU currently serves 2,375 undergraduate and 795 graduate students, Because of the institution’s location in a residential neighborhood, the number of students served by the university is capped by the City of San Diego. For the last several years,...

    • Quantitative Reasoning and Informed Citizenship: A Relevant Hands-on Course
      (pp. 125-132)
      Alicia Sevilla and Kay Somers

      The courseQuantitative Reasoning and Informed Citizenshipwas created with the help of a grant from the National Science Foundation (Grant No. 9950229) for the years 1999–2001. The course was taught for the first time in fall 2000. It was designed to address the needs of college students in the 21stcentury and as one course that students may choose to satisfy a requirement of the new interdisciplinary general education curriculum at Moravian College. As its title suggests, the course investigates relevant applications and is designed to help students become more informed citizens.

      Moravian College is a small liberal...

    • A QL Program at a Large Public University
      (pp. 133-140)
      Linda Sons

      In the mid 1980s the faculty at Northern Illinois University reviewed the requirements for their baccalaureate graduates and decided that each should be at least minimally competent in mathematics. The intent of such competency was that graduates should be able to solve problems and do quantitative analysis which would be helpful in personal decision-making; in evaluating concerns in the community, state, and nation; in setting and achieving career goals; and in continued learning. To develop or determine the establishment of the desired competency for each student, a program had to be designed wherein each individual would be directed to the...

    • Quantitative Reasoning at Wellesley College
      (pp. 141-146)
      Corrine Taylor

      In keeping with its mission “to provide an excellent liberal arts education for women who will make a difference in the world,” Wellesley College implemented a two-part quantitative reasoning requirement in 1997. The College recognized that its students need to be proficient with mathematical, logical, and statistical tools if they are to address the many quantitative issues that arise in today’s global community and in the students’ own personal lives. Students also need strong quantitative reasoning skills if they are to be able to explore any academic major and pursue any career. This paper describes the Quantitative Reasoning Program at...

  7. Advising, Assessment, and Other Issues

    • Designing a QL Program to Match Student Needs and Interests
      (pp. 149-154)
      AbdelNaser Al-Hasan

      Mount Mary College (MMC), located in metropolitan Milwaukee, is Wisconsin’s oldest Catholic college for women, enrolling 600 full-time undergraduate, 600 part-time undergraduate and 175 graduate students.

      Historically, the college has not had a mathematics course requirement for the baccalaureate degree. In the past two years, a liberal arts core task force had been working to design a core to meet the needs of women in the 21stcentury based on the mission and vision of the college.

      This paper will describe the steps taken by both the Department of Mathematics/Computer Science and the college as a whole in introducing a...

    • Quantitative Literacy as an Integral Component of Mathematics Curriculum, Case at North Dakota State University
      (pp. 155-164)
      Doğan Çömez and William O. Martin

      In recent years the quantitative skills of students at every level have been the focus of discussions in both public and academic circles. The mathematician J. A. Paulos brought increased general visibility to the issues with his books,A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper(1995) andInnumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences(1988). Others, such as Steen (1997, 1998) and Kirsch and Jungeblut (1986), have also examined quantitative literacy and called for changes in education to improve the situation. As happens with any issue of such wide interest and debate, an important part of the discussion is the very definition of...

    • A Case Study of Assessment Practices in Quantitative Literacy
      (pp. 165-170)
      Rick Gillman

      As we develop and implement quantitative literacy programs, it is important to remember to design efficient and informative assessment plans. To accomplish this, we need to understand what the goals of our program are, as well as the context within which the program exists.

      This paper describes the assessment efforts of the quantitative literacy program at Valparaiso University. As we begin describing this program, it should be noted that it is not a complete QL program as described in Quantitative Reasoning for College Students: A Supplement to the Standards. As you will see, it was designed to address the first...

    • The Quantitative Literacy Requirement at Alma College
      (pp. 171-174)
      Frances B. Lichtman

      Alma College is a selective, residential, liberal arts college located in Alma, Michigan, devoted exclusively to the education of undergraduate students. The College enrolls about 1,200 students primarily from Michigan and also from 20 states and 12 foreign countries. Biology, Business, Education, History, and Psychology are the majors that attract the largest percentage of students.

      Admission requirements historically have included a minimum of three years of high school mathematics. However, until recently, students could graduate from the College without further study in the computational and mathematical sciences. In fall 1997, an important change was made in the core curriculum requiring...

    • Traveling the Road Toward Quantitative Literacy
      (pp. 175-180)
      Richard J. Maher

      Like most Jesuit institutions, Loyola University’s College of Arts and Sciences has had a core curriculum for many years. In the fall of 2002, the university decided to begin work on a common core curriculum for all its undergraduate students. In January, 2003, the administration formed a seventeen member Core Renewal Steering Committee consisting of twelve faculty, three staff, one student, and the Associate Provost. This committee was charged with determining…

      what a graduate of Loyola University Chicago should know, appreciate, and be able to do regardless of his or her college or undergraduate major.

      After nearly a year of...

    • Quantitative Literacy Course Selection
      (pp. 181-186)
      Carrie Muir

      Since 1999, I have been the undergraduate advisor for the Mathematics Department at the University of Colorado at Boulder. According to the job description, I would split my time between teaching math courses and advising math majors. Much to my surprise, from the very beginning I also had requests for advising from humanities and social science students, as well as calls for help from advisors in those fields: the problem? course selection.

      I had never really considered selecting a mathematics or related course as a potential problem for general liberal arts students. As an undergraduate, I was a math major,...

  8. About the Editor
    (pp. 187-187)