The quantitative classroom reading group

17 February 2017
By Melissa Eblen-Zayas, Director of the LTC and Professor of Physics

Quantitative skills (QS), quantitative literacy (QL), and quantitative reasoning (QR) are important elements to success in a wide range of disciplines and impact students’ abilities to become informed and innovative citizens. This term Nathan Grawe, professor of economics, and Kristin O’Connell, quantitative skills coordinator in TRIO, lead a reading group examining the literature on student success and curricular development across the disciplines in courses that require QS/QL/QR.  The group began by reading Susan Elrod’s 2014 Peer Review article “Quantitative Reasoning: The Next ‘Across the Curriculum’ Movement” to put the discussions within a national context. For the local perspective, we read Nathan Grawe’s 2013 Numeracy article “Does Completion of Quantitative Courses Predict Better Quantitative Reasoning-in-Writing Proficiency?”.  For additional readings on teaching and assessing QS/QL/QR, contact Kristin O’Connell to obtain access to the document she developed based on an initial bibliography that Cailin Hyuck Orr (SERC) put together for the group.

The group began by considering the QS/QL/QR topics that are relevant in various disciplines and the challenge of transferring learning to new contexts. When students struggle in a class that makes use of QS/QR, it can be difficult to tell whether the students are struggling because they have weak quantitative skills or if they are struggling to transfer their quantitative skills to a new context.

The group discussed a few of the approaches that departments and individual faculty members are taking to support students with diverse QS/QL/QR backgrounds. Some departments (chem, bio, math, and physics) are offering sections of their introductory courses with a focus on developing problem solving skills. At the course level, some faculty members are using technology to provide just-in-time introduction or review of particular quantitative topics and skills. Aaron Swoboda, associate professor of economics, demonstrated Doceri and Deborah Gross, professor of chemistry, showed Explain Everything — two interactive whiteboard and screencast software options that make it easy to create short videos showing how to solve an example problem or providing a brief review of a concept. With the three QRE overlays required for graduation, finding institutional approaches to support all students in developing QS/QR/QL is important. Expecting individual faculty members to develop a set of support resources for their own classes is not optimal, and the group briefly discussed collaborative possibilities. Be on the lookout for continuing conversations!

Additional resources:

Carleton QuIRK initiative
Developing Quantitative Reasoning. Pedagogy in Action Website.