Lynn Arthur Steen (St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN, USA) has edited or co-edited five booklets on quantitative literacy (QL). These booklets helped define QL as the use of mathematical and logical thinking in context.
Lynn Steen is arguably the father of the Quantitative Literacy (numeracy) movement while Richard Schaeffer and Linda Sons are the god parents.
The need for Quantitative Literacy (QL) is generally accepted. But the content and teaching of QL is under active discussion and debate. The quotes from the following publications present some of that discussion.
While four of the six booklets shown here are edited by Lynn Arthur Steen (pictured above) and two more are co-edited by Bernard Madison and Lynn Steen, they all contain ideas presented by many people. In the Steen-Madison books, Robert Orrill (to name just one) worked tirelessly in support of QL as have the members of the Mathematics and Democracy Design team and the members of the National Numeracy Steering Committee. [Note: this US National Numeracy effort is different from the National Numeracy Strategy in the UK.]. [While the following are all quotes from the listed publications, this page has not been reviewed or approved by any of those mentioned on this page.]
General Comments on Numeracy and QL:
Calculation vs. Context: Quantitative Literacy and Its
Implications for Teacher Education (2008).
"Innovative and more effective quantitative literacy education is urgent both as a part of revitalization of liberal education and as a response to the increasing quantitative reasoning demands of US society. In the information age of today and tomorrow, lives are increasingly governed by numbers. The ubiquity of data and analyses of data require one to use sound quantitative reasoning to cope intelligently with the requirements of citizenship, job and family, and to be prepared for a healthy, happy and productive life. But quantitative reasoning for the practical circumstances of life is not part of the school or college curriculum - even for those taking a large complement of mathematics and science courses. In particular, it is not part of the college education of prospective teachers, and it is not a major part of the current national agenda reshaping school curricula. Achieving a quantitatively literate citizenry requires serious changes in the education of teachers and the curricula they teach. Thus, the need for a conference on Quantitative Literacy and Its Implications for Teacher Education." - From the letter of invitation to conference participants
"Innovative and more effective quantitative literacy education is urgent both as a part of revitalization of liberal education and as a response to the increasing quantitative reasoning demands of US society. Thus, the need for a conference on Quantitative Literacy and Its Implications for Teacher Education. " MAA Bookstore.
"This volume contains the broadest interpretation yet of quantitative literacy (QL) as it should play out across the school and college curriculum. Nine commissioned essays on QL and teacher education by scholars in eight academic disciplines both challenge and expand more traditional views of QL. These essays, introductions by editors Bernard Madison and Lynn Steen, and brief summaries of discussions summarize the proceedings of a June 2007 multi-disciplinary conference held at Wingspread Conference Center and sponsored by the MAA's NSF-funded PMET project." MAA 2008 Fall/Winter Catalog
Conference Steering Committee Stanley Katz, Princeton University Bernard L. Madison, University of Arkansas Robert Orrill, National Council on Education and the Disciplines Richard Scheaffer, University of Florida Carol Geary Schneider, Association of American Colleges and Universities Lynn Arthur Steen, St. Olaf College Corrine Taylor, Wellesley College Alan Tucker, State University of New York at Stony Brook
Planning a Conversation about Quantitative Literacy and Teacher Education, Bernard L. Madison
Reflections on Wingspread Workshop, Lynn Arthur Steen.
Reflections on Quantitative Reasoning: An Assessment Perspective, Richard J.
Humanism and Quantitative
Literacy, Robert Orrill "Humanists seem always to have kept a
worried eye on quantification."
Arguing with Numbers: Teaching QR through Argument and
Writing, Neil Lutsky
Fractions and Units in Everyday Life, Alan Tucker
"[To improve algebra,] introduce rates and
percentages as presented in tables and graphs in middle school as a
pre-Algebra bridging course",
"the cause of quantitative literacy faces two
challenges: first recognizing that Q/L must encompass more than matters of
Quantitative Literacy for All: How Can We Make it Happen, Hugh Burkhardt "If QL is not taught in Mathematics, it will not happen."
The Licensure of Teachers for Quantitative Literacy: Who
Should Be Entitled to Teach QL?, Frank B. Murray
Literacy includes "prose, document and quantitative literacy."
"Document literacy refers to reading charts and tables." p. xi.
"Quantitative literacy refers to interpreting and reasoning with numbers." p. xi
"The essence of QL is to use mathematical and logical thinking in context." p.47
QL skills involve "sophisticated reasoning with elementary mathematics rather than elementary reasoning with sophisticated mathematics." p. 9
"Because of their education and training, most teachers are not prepared for or comfortable with the mathematics required for quantitative literacy." p.47
"According to Johnny Lott, former president of NCTM, it is simply unrealistic to expect that teachers of other subjects will either know or understand what might be considered quantitative literacy." p. 47
"QL advocates need to be very clear about what all students need to know and be able to do, starting with where it fits into the mathematics program." Janice Somerville, p.3.
Earlier innovative, QL-type courses "had one thing in common that contributed to their remaining a small elective rather than a major requirement -- they were designed specifically to focus on ideas -- generally QL-like ideas -- rather than techniques. This made them more difficult for teachers to teach and for students to master, and for that reason they thrived only in special niches out of the mainstream of college mathematics." p. 39
"Thus, on both sides of the school-college boundary, policy related to quantitative literacy is inextricably tied with mathematics and statistics." p. 33
"In reality, data analysis -- what most statisticians actually practice -- is typically more than the average person needs to be an informed citizen, intelligent consumer or skilled worker. What everyone needs is typically called statistical thinking or statistical literacy, a crucial component of quantitative literacy." p. 43
"Although most adults see probabilistic and statistical arguments every day, few have any preparation to make sense out of them." Deborah Hughes Hallet, p. 43
Not withstanding the importance of quantitative literacy to health, politics, work and personal finance, in our discipline-dominated education system, QL has neither an academic home or an administrative promoter." p. xi
"Although mathematics certainly cannot bear the sole burden of quantitative literacy, it is the discipline best suited to play a leadership role." p.44
"It may well be that with regard to our democratic conception of higher education, it is undergraduate mathematics that is most out of date." p. 5
"It is time for a change, time to recognize the unique quantitative requirements of universal education in the computer age." p.9
Reviewed in The American Statistician (2006) V 1. "Many of the problems that are cited as reasons why typical citizens need to be quantitatively literate are in fact subtle and difficult. A good example mentioned in the book is that of false positives in screening for cancers. Can a QL curriculum be expected to emphasize basic skills also introduce such tough cases? And how can we measure whether the students are essentially literate? It is in the development of tools for the assessment of quantitative skills that statisticians have some experience and perhaps can offer assistance in solving this problem."
Reviewed in the MAA online by Charlotte Chell: "The great accomplishment of Achieving Quantitative Literacy is that it articulates the urgent need with an eloquent philosophy of education and democracy, and a vision that is both compelling and awesome; yet it never forgets that the real-world mathematical/QL problems to be solved are everyday tasks that will often be contextually messy. As the Responses to the Findings demonstrate, the real-world implementation of QL education will also require everyday tasks that are not always elegant, and not always comfortable for mathematicians."
"QL is anchored in context; the objects of QL are data."
"Quantitative reasoning relies on concepts first introduced in middle school --averages, percentages, graphs."
"Averages, like percentages, are also a source of mysteries."
"my point is that QL is sufficiently sophisticated to warrant inclusion in college study and, more important, that without it students cannot intelligently achieve major goals of college education."
"Quantitative literacy is not just a set of precollege skills. It is as important, as complex, and as fundamental as the more traditional branches of mathematics."
"One clear priority has emerged: the need to develop benchmarks for quantitative literacy that can guide both curriculum and assessment in grades 10-16."
Other Related Publications
Edited by Bernard L. Madison and Lynn Arthur Steen
"Quantitative literacy, in my view, means knowing how to reason and how to think and it is all but absent from our curricula today." Users of quantitative information "have to learn how to think for themselves, and that is what an education in quantitative reasoning can teach them." Gina Kolata (1997)
"The attention to quantitative reasoning that she [Gina Kolata, see above] thinks so essential to sound judgment simply does not exist in the academic programs of most of our schools and colleges. Robert Orrill
"To expand the conversation about QL, the NCED subsequently sponsored a national forum, Quantitative Literacy: Why Numeracy Matters for Schools and Colleges, held at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington D.C. on December 1-2, 2001. This volume represents the proceedings of this Forum and includes papers commissioned as background for that Forum, essays presented at that Forum, and selected reactions to that Forum." Bernard Madison
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
"Despite its occasional use as a euphemism for statistics in school curricula, quantitative literacy is not the same as statistics. Neither is it the same as mathematics, nor is it (as some fear) watered-down mathematics. Quantitative literacy is more a habit of mind, an approach to problems that employs and enhances both statistics and mathematics. Unlike statistics, which is primarily about uncertainty, numeracy is often about the logic of certainty. Unlike mathematics, which is primarily about a Platonic realm of abstract structures, numeracy is often anchored in data derived from and attached to the empirical world. Surprisingly to some, this inextricable link to reality makes quantitative reasoning every bit as challenging and rigorous as mathematical reasoning."
"In the twenty-first century, literacy and numeracy will become inseparable qualities of an educated person."
This site was last updated 07/04/11