QR Goals

What are the goals of Quantitative Literacy [QL] / Quantitative Reasoning [QR]?

Many experts in the QR movement have articulated specific learning goals and/or embedded them within their definitions of QL/QR. For example, in the book "Mathematics and Democracy," Steen and colleagues (2001: 8-9) outline a comprehensive portrait of several core elements of quantitative literacy including:

1. Confidence with Mathematics. Being comfortable with quantitative ideas and at ease in applying quantitative methods. Individuals who are quantitatively confident routinely use mental estimates to quantify, interpret, and check other information. Confidence is the opposite of "math anxiety"; it makes numeracy as natural as ordinary language.

2. Cultural Appreciation. Understanding the nature and history of mathematics, its role in scientific inquiry and technological progress, and its importance for comprehending issues in the public realm.

3. Interpreting Data. Reasoning with data, reading graphs, drawing inferences, and recognizing sources of error. This perspective differs from traditional mathematics in that data (rather than formulas or relationships) are at the center.

4. Logical Thinking. Analyzing evidence, reasoning carefully, understanding arguments, questioning assumptions, detecting fallacies, and evaluating risks. Individuals with such habits of inquiry accept little at face value; they constantly look beneath the surface, demanding appropriate information to get at the essence of issues.

5. Making Decisions. Using mathematics to make decisions and solve problems in everyday life. For individuals who have acquired this habit, mathematics is not something done only in mathematics class but a powerful tool for living, as useful and ingrained as reading and speaking.

6. Mathematics in Context. Using mathematical tools in specific settings where the context provides meaning. Notation, problem-solving strategies, and performance standards all depend on the specific context.

7. Number Sense. Having accurate intuition about the meaning of numbers, confidence in estimation, and common sense in employing numbers as a measure of things. Practical Skills. Knowing how to solve quantitative problems that a person is likely to encounter at home or at work. Individuals who possess these skills are adept at using elementary mathematics in a wide variety of common situations.

8. Prerequisite Knowledge. Having the ability to use a wide range of algebraic, geometric, and statistical tools that are required in many fields of postsecondary education.

9. Symbol Sense. Being comfortable using algebraic symbols and at ease in reading and interpreting them, and exhibiting good sense about the syntax and grammar of mathematical symbols.

What are the goals of Quantitative Literacy [QL]/Quantitative Reasoning [QR] for college students?

• Even while QL/QR is distinct from traditional mathematics, many mathematicians and mathematical organizations have played a leading role in the QL/QR movement. According to the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) (1998):

• "The foremost objective of both liberal and professional types of higher education should be to produce well-educated, enlightened citizens, who can reason cogently, communicate clearly, solve problems, and lead satisfying, productive lives."

• They further argue, "A quantitatively literate college graduate should be able to:

1. Interpret mathematical models such as formulas, graphs, tables, and schematics, and draw inferences from them.

2. Represent mathematical information symbolically, visually, numerically, and verbally.

3. Use arithmetical, algebraic, geometric and statistical methods to solve problems.

4. Estimate and check answers to mathematical problems in order to determine reasonableness, identify alternatives, and select optimal results.

5. Recognize that mathematical and statistical methods have limits."

The material on this page has been co-authored by Esther Isabelle Wilder and Frank Wang.