Just as literacy is crucial to being an effective participant in modern society, so is quantitative literacy. In Quantitative Reasoning for College Graduates: A Complement to the Standards, a committee in the Mathematical Association of America stated five mathematical/statistical/logical abilities that every college graduate should possess. These abilities, listed below, may be viewed as collectively defining quantitative literacy.
- Interpret mathematical models such as formulas, graphs, tables, and schematics, and draw inferences from them.
- Represent mathematical information symbolically, visually, numerically, and verbally.
- Use arithmetical, algebraic, geometric and statistical methods to solve problems.
- Estimate and check answers to mathematical problems in order to determine reasonableness, identify alternatives, and select optimal results.
- Recognize that mathematical and statistical methods have limits.
Quantitative literacy is sometimes referred to as numeracy, which is a contraction of "numerical literacy." The term innumeracy, coined by cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter and popularized by mathematician John Allen Paulos, refers to the lack of numeracy. The abbreviation QL is often used for "quantitative literacy."
This page, maintained by Dr. Chris Hill (firstname.lastname@example.org), provides a growing list of resources about quantitative literacy.
Selected QL Programs
The following is a sampling of quantitative literacy programs in U.S. colleges and universities.
Augsburg College Augsburg requires that its students complete graduation skills courses in four areas: quantitative reasoning (one course), critical thinking (one course), writing (two courses), and speaking (one course). For quantitative reasoning, graduation skills courses have been offered in business, chemistry, communications, computer science, economics, health and physical education, mathematics, music, nursing, physics, political science, psychology, sociology, and social work. In addition, the College offers a General Studies course called Quantitative Reasoning (GST 200). In order to take a graduation skills course in quantitative reasoning, a student must satisfy a certain placement criterion.
Augsburg also maintains the W. M. Keck Statistical Literacy Project, which seeks to develop statistical literacy as an interdisciplinary curriculum in the liberal arts. Augsburg College received a grant to fund the Project in 2001 by the W. M. Keck Foundation. The Project generates teaching materials that are "useful to students and usable by faculty." The Project's director, Milo Schield, argues for the necessity of a course on statistical literacy in his article, Statistical Literacy Curriculum Design.
||Central Washington University CWU has materials on quantitative and symbolic reasoning (QSR) and critical thinking. The CWU program is a response to a 1997 educational directive from the Washington State Legislature. A description of this directive and useful background on quantitative literacy is provided in the online article, Quantitative Reasoning: An Overview.
||Dartmouth The Center for Mathematics and Quantitative Education at Dartmouth (MQED) provides curriculum materials serving QL needs across a wide variety of disciplines. Materials include an “electronic bookshelf” of materials relating mathematics to a wide range of disciplines. The electronic bookshelf was created through the Mathematics Across the Curriculum (MATC) project. Dartmouth also has a statistical literacy program called Chance.
||DePauw University To graduate from DePauw, a student must be certified in three areas: quantitative reasoning, writing, and speaking and listening. Certification is achieved through competence courses. Competence courses for quantitative reasoning are designated as Q courses. The term "Q course" is slightly misleading, because a given course, like Econ 101, may have both Q sections and non-Q sections. Q courses are offered in computer science, economics, education, geology, history, kinesiology, mathematics (not all mathematics courses are Q courses), philosophy, physics, psychology, and sociology. Q courses are taught by Q-certified faculty members, that is, faculty members who have obtained Q certification by taking a Q workshop. In order to be eligible to take a Q course, a student must either have appropriate standardized test scores or obtain at least a C- in Univ 101 (Introduction to Quantitative Reasoning). Students must obtain Q certification by the end of their junior year. The Quantitative Reasoning Center, or "Q Center," provides assistance for students in quantitative reasoning.
||Macalaster College Quantitative Methods for Public Policy.
||Samford University Transformational Learning Abilities: Quantitative. This program includes detailed analysis of assessing QL abilities.
||University of Massachusetts
Online QL Resources
- Numeracy This is the electronic journal of the National Numeracy Network. Launched in January of 2008, Numeracy is an open-access peer-reviewed journal dedicated to advancing education in quantitative literacy.
Mathematical Association of America
Critical Thinking and Numbers
- Innumeracy.com This web site stems from a personal interest in critical thinking and is a collection of links to articles and sites pertaining to numeracy and critical thinking.
- Bank Failures The economic woes of 2008 and 2009 may lead one to expect that the number of bank failures in these years were the highest since the Great Depression. This table, provided by the FDIC, of the numbers of bank failures by year since 1934 reminds us that the numbers of bank failures during the S&L crisis of the '80s and '90s were much higher.
- Internet Host Count The Internet Systems Consortium provides survey data for the number of Internet hosts from August 1981 through the present year. The number of hosts effectively measures the size of the Internet. Watch the number of hosts grow from 213 in 1981 to over 600 million in 2009.
- United States Bureau of Labor Statistics
- United States Census The Census Bureau provides the results from every U.S. census, from the first in 1790 to the most recent in 2000. The site also estimates the U.S. and world populations at the second you visit it.
- U.S. National Debt Clock This site displays an estimate of the national debt at the second you visit it. Not for the faint of heart. Helpful information about the national debt is also provided. This site deduces its figures from the detailed data given by the Treasury Department's Bureau of the Public Debt.
- United States Presidential Elections Maintained by the Federal Register, this site includes electoral and popular vote tallies for every presidential election, from the first in 1789 to the most recent.
- World Records in Track and Field This Finnish site, with text in English, provides progressions of world records in all track and field events for men and women.
- Achieving Quantitative Literacy: An Urgent Challenge for Higher Education, by Lynn Steen. MAA, 2004.
- Consider a Spherical Cow: A Course In Environmental Problem-Solving, by John Harte.
- Current Practices in Quantitative Literacy, by Rick Gillman (editor). MAA, 2006.
- How to Lie with Statistics, by Darryl Huff. W. W. Norton & Company, 1954 (reissued 1993).
- How We Know What Isn’t So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life, by Thomas Gilovich.
- Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and its Consequences, by John Allen Paulos. Hill and Wang, 2001 (first published in 1988).
- A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper, by John Allen Paulos. Anchor, 1996. (The Math Dept. has one copy.)
- Mathematics and Democracy: The Case for Quantitative Literacy, edited by Lynn Arthur Steen. National Council on Education and the Disciplines, MAA, 2001.
- Quantitative Literacy: Why Numeracy Matters for Schools and Colleges, by Bernard Madison and Lynn Arthur Steen, editors. MAA, 2003.
- Quantitative Reasoning: Tools for Today's Informed Citizens, by Alicia Sevilla & Kay Somers. Key College Publishing, 2007.
- Understanding Our Quantitative World, by Janet Andersen & Todd Swanson. MAA, 2005.
- Using and Understanding Mathematics: A Quantitative Reasoning Approach, by Jeffrey O. Bennett and William L. Briggs. Pearson, 2011.
- The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, by Edward R. Tufte. Graphics Press, 1983.
- Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative, by Edward R. Tufte. Graphics Press, 1997.