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Creation

Why was QR created?

Introduction: A new meaning of literacy for the contemporary world

DePaul graduates are entering an increasingly more competitive job market and an increasingly more complex society. Culturally relevant information is now produced, shared and consumed in a plurality of ways, several of which did not even exist 15 years ago. The global effort of this University to educate a whole person, in a Vincentian framework, must ensure that our graduates are equipped with the necessary set of skills that will make them competitive, responsible, critical citizens of the world of today.

In this context, a new notion of literacy emerges that, following de Castell and Luke (1986) , translates as "having mastery over the processes by means of which culturally significant information is coded". We strongly feel that equipping our students with literacy in the above sense is a major responsibility of the spine of the Liberal Studies Program. The following proposal is aimed at strengthening the mathematical and technological components of the spine.

The current Quantitative Reasoning program as part of the Liberal Studies Program Spine

Previous to the current Liberal Studies Program instituted in 1997, the only quantitative requirement for students whose majors did not require them to take calculus was to demonstrate proficiency in Computational Skills and Basic Algebra, the latter being the level of beginning high school algebra. Students could meet the requirement by taking an exam which they could re-take as many times as they wished. The skills necessary to pass the exam were neither sufficient nor appropriate to allow students to do well in higher-level college courses with a quantitative component. Students were graduating without the ability to understand or interpret the most basic quantitative data or information that they would be sure to encounter after they left the university.

The situation with computer and technology skills was even worse. Prior to the current Liberal Studies Program, there was no technology requirement of any kind for DePaul University students, not even a basic computer literacy requirement.

The current mathematics and technology requirements were developed as part of the current Liberal Studies Program to address these needs. Development involved the input of broad group of faculty representing a diverse set of disciplines.

The current general requirement can be summarized as

  • All students must demonstrate a mastery of College Algebra either by placement or by taking a 4 credit course (ISP 110 Algebra for Applications or MAT 101 Introduction to College Algebra)
  • All students must either take the specially developed Quantitative Reasoning course, ISP 120, or take Calculus as part of their major.
  • Students not majoring in the sciences or computer science must take a course in the Scientific Inquiry Domain that includes a substantial quantitative component.

One exception was made: students who will not be required to take Calculus as part of their major and who place into Calculus on the Mathematics Placement exam are said to have satisfied the Quantitative Reasoning Requirement. In addition, a mechanism (the Quantitative Reasoning Exam) was put in place so that students already possessing the skills of the Quantitative Reasoning course could demonstrate their competence and place out.

The Quantitative Reasoning course, ISP 120, was developed drawing upon the most recent recommendations of the Mathematical Association of America (Sons, 1996) and the expertise and experience of DePaul's own faculty. Reflecting the work of a community of mathematicians concerned about quantitative skills of citizens in the twentieth first century (e.g., Paulos (1988), Steen (1997, 2001), Madison (2003)), it is an innovative mathematics course which integrates technology. It focuses on using mathematics in context and preparing students for quantitative work in science courses, their own disciplines, in professional work, and in their own daily lives. It emphasizes reasoning and critical engagement with a wide range of quantitative information. Technology integrated into the curriculum helps students master software tools far more thoroughly than a stand-alone computer literacy course could. The course has garnered national attention at professional meetings and in professional publications. Dr. Carolyn Narasimhan and Dr. David Jabon have been invited to make presentations on the Quantitative Reasoning course at the national meetings of a variety of professional organizations: the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (2000), American Statistical Association (2000), Mathematical Association of America (Winter 2001, Summer 2001, Winter 2003). In addition, Dr. Narasimhan and Dr. Jabon have given four presentations at regional meetings of these organizations since 1998. An article on the program was published in 2000:D. Jabon and C. Narasimhan (2000), "Interdisciplinary Quantitative Reasoning: A Pre-Statistics Course," American Statistical Association 2000 Proceedings of the Section on Statistical Education, pp. 100-105.

In May, 2003, Dr. Narasimhan was a keynote speaker at a symposium at the University of Delaware on general education. The University of Delaware is using the model of DePaul University to help craft a new quantitative reasoning requirement for its students. Dr. David Jabon, in September 2003, assisted Dr. Christine Kidd of the University of Delaware in incorporating some of DePaul's computer activities in her courses for first year business students.

In 2004, the DePaul University's Quantitative Reasoning Program will be one of the programs featured in a volume entitled "Quantitative Literacy in Practice" (2004) to be published by the Mathematical Association of America (edited by Rick Gilman of Purdue University).

As a reflection of our belief that quantitative and technological skills are fundamental components of the DePaul experience, one of the strengths of the current mathematics and technology requirement is that close to 70% of undergraduate students take a single course (ISP 120) instead of choosing one course from a long list of alternatives. The current approach assures that all DePaul graduates have solid mathematical skills and most have substantial technology skills and can use technology in context to analyze actual data. They can critically evaluate quantitative arguments and quantitative graphics in the media. They can use mathematics in an interdisciplinary context. Hundreds of students have indicated to us that the ISP 120 course improved their employability, in many cases allowing them to obtain jobs they would not have gotten without having taken the course.

REFERENCES
de Castell, S. and A. Luke, 1986. "Models of literacy in North American schools: Social and historical conditions and consequences" In: S. de Castell, A. Luke, and K. Egan (editors). Literacy Society and Schooling. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 87-109.

Jabon, D. and C. Narasimhan, 2000. "Interdisciplinary Quantitative Reasoning: A Pre-Statistics Course" American Statistical Association 2000 Proceedings of the Section on Statistical Education (2000), pp. 100-105.

Jabon, D., 2004. "Quantitative Reasoning: An Interdisciplinary, Technology Infused Approach" In: Gilman, R. (ed.) Quantitative Literacy in Practice, Mathematical Association of America, (forthcoming).

Madison, B. et al., 2003. Quantitative Literacy: Why Numeracy Matters for Schools and Colleges. Princeton: The National Council on Education and the Disciplines.

Paulos, J. A. 1988. Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Sons, Linda, et al., 1996. Quantitative Reasoning for College Students: A Supplement to the Standards. Mathematical Association of America.

Steen, L. (ed.) 1997. Why Numbers Count: Quantitative Literacy for Tomorrow's America. New York: College Entrance Examination Board, 1997.

Steen, L. (ed.) 2001. Mathematics and Democracy: The Case for Quantitative Literacy. Princeton: National Council on Education and the Disciplines.