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
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
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.
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.