What is QR?

About Quantitative Reasoning

What is QR?

  • QR skills refer to the ability to reason quantitatively and to model and solve problems with quantitative (or numerical) methods.

  • While QR is tied to mathematics, QR skills can be applied more broadly to daily tasks such as: estimating one's risk of contracting the coronavirus, calculating the cost of purchasing a home with mortgage payments, understanding the chances of a candidate being elected president, or assessing the likelihood of getting a job in one's college major.

  • Quantitative skills are needed for research and analysis in biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, physics, psychology and sociology courses, as well as in the context of making decisions and assessing risks in our personal and professional lives.

  • At the undergraduate level, QR skills refer to students' abilities to apply data and numerical evidence to theoretical questions.

  • According to the AAC&U, quantitative reasoning (QR) is, "the application of basic math skills, such as algebra, to the analysis and interpretation of real-world quantitative information in the context of a discipline or an interdisciplinary problem to draw conclusions that are relevant to students in their daily lives."

Ven diagram showing QR at the center of context, critical thinking and math

Why is infusing QR across the disciplines important?

  • While many of the liberal arts are not traditionally associated with QR, the AAC&U stresses that QR is "located at the intersection of critical thinking, basic mathematics skills, and the disciplines or real-world contexts for learning."

  • Importantly, in order to truly assess QR competency, students must be able to identify and apply quantitative relationships in a range of contexts, even ones that are not usually associated with numeracy.

  • It is easy to spot QR across a wide range of disciplines including: nutrition and exercise science (i.e. understanding nutrition fact labels), political science (i.e. making judgements on political polling), and even literature and the arts. An example of Quantitative Reasoning in writing can be found here.

  • However, according to the AAC&U, a 2003 survey revealed that only 13 percent of American adults are proficient in quantitative literacy, while 22 percent are below basic level.

What is the difference between mathematics and QR/numeracy?

  • "Numeracy is not the same as mathematics, nor is it an alternative to mathematics…today's students need both mathematics and numeracy."

chart showing difference between math and QR
  • Mathematics is rooted in abstract, deductive reasoning, and serves primarily professional purposes.

  • QR refers to a more general set of skills that are anchored in context, and which are are employed in every aspect of an alert, informed life.

  • QR skills are essential for all college graduates' personal and civic responsibilities, and are used across academic disciplines.