What is Quantitative Literacy?

Most people understand illiteracy as the inability to read, but what is the parallel definition for innumeracy or quantitative illiteracy?

In an increasingly numbers-drenched society, it’s a question that many scholars are trying to answer so they can find ways to move more people beyond the starting point.

“Statistical literacy, quantitative literacy, numeracy --Under the hood, it is what do we want people to be able to do: Read tables and graphs and understand English statements that have numbers in them. That’s a good start,” said Milo Schield, a professor of statistics at Augsburg College and a vice president of the National Numeracy Network.

Shield was dismayed to find that, in a survey of his new students, 44 percent could not read a simple 100 percent row table and about a quarter could not accurately interpret a scatter plot of adult heights and weights.

At many colleges, it’s possible for students with high entrance exam scores and language or arts-related majors to go through four years of college and not take any math or quantitative courses, he said.

The answer for these students may not be found on the calculus track, he said. But they would benefit from more training in how to make sense of simple math in various contexts, so they can better understand the newspaper and policy debates and so they can make smarter choices about their mortgages.

He thinks that quantitative literacy should be incorporated across the curriculum, just like writing, so that the skills of analyzing data and talking about numbers are embedded in other courses or they should be taught in a stand-alone course for non-quantitative majors.

How would you define the baseline for quantitative literacy that all people should have? Where does Algebra fit into that?

By Michael Alison Chandler  |  February 5, 2009; 11:59 AM ET  | Category:  Math Literacy
Previous: Return of the Math Wars | Next: Test Your Quantitative Literacy

Comments



More propoganda from the Hetchinger Institute? Critics would like to know where's the research to back up Steen and his supporters?

Will QL literacy raise student's math scores? No, because the textbooks are already being used by schools and have been used for the past 20 years.

It is no longer suprising that more than 70% of the districts which piloted reform programs, math investigations have now reverted back to traditional programs. This has been at great expense to taxpayers.

Even Bellevue School District (Core Plus Regional training center) where Steen, with the help of the Boeing Foundation, wrote the Achieve Standard has gone back to using traditional math textbooks.

QL literacy should not be used to deconstruct the traditional mathematics core sequence that was used to prepare students for engineering and science careers.

QL literacy was one of the excuses used by math reform advocates to manufacture the DOE's list of unsuitable math programs.

The current controversy in Washington state is over a parallel set of standards for Americans, a substandard 'American diploma' v. 'High school diploma'. It is the only logical outcome that can result from the chaos created in part by Achieve, Inc which also resulted in a certain superintendent losing reelection.

The current top-down reform effort is structural and downward. With half of all communities marginalized, schools and teachers have been demonized. The public has lost all confidence in their schools.

People should be objecting to the inexcusable amounts of fraud and waste that have been legislated by bureaucrats who's sole aim is perpetuating their own selfish truths.

Standardized testing is but one example of publisher lobbyists efforts to control the paradigm of education under the auspices of continual change and need for renewal. There is plenty of anti-union rhetoric, but what about the curriculum?

With our government futile attempts to spend its way out of a recession, QL literacy will soon die a dog's death, with not even a whimper. Can we really afford more reform?

Posted by: ajax1992 | February 8, 2009 5:11 PM | Report abuse

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