It is increasingly evident that effective education of today's students requires not only widespread literacy, but also an ability to interpret research, data and numbers. The ability at issue, using quantitative concepts to represent and interpret information in a wide variety of contexts, is not identical to the mastery of mathematics as a formal academic discipline. CUNY recognizes this need in its new proficiency exam, to be introduced in the fall 2000 semester. Yet, Brooklyn College has no system in place for insuring that all students develop their quantitative reasoning skills; even the Core curriculum does not guarantee that students will receive adequate preparation. Such preparation would require an integrated and concerted effort on the part of the entire institution comparable to the Writing Across the Curriculum project. Quantitative reasoning cannot adequately be imparted in curricular isolation. The task requires a rethinking of the entire curriculum.The Brooklyn College Quantitative Reasoning Across the Curriculum Project
The Quantitative Reasoning Across the Curriculum project, funded by the National Science Foundation, brings faculty together from the humanities, sciences and social sciences to develop new and better methods for incorporating quantitative concepts in their courses. We successfully secured a $200,000 Institution-wide Reform grant in 1997, at a time when competition for these awards was particularly keen. The NSF views these grants as seed money to start a process of sustained institutional change.
Over the past three years the project has succeeded in making the college community aware of the importance of quantitative reasoning across the disciplines. We brought faculty together in workshops, symposia and a regional conference. We have networked with national institutions, and developed and shared curricular materials. In spite of these successes, there is as yet no institutional structure to provide quantitative reasoning instruction for all students.
The goals of the project evolve. We refine specific objectives for faculty and students as we endeavor to:
- Create an institutional culture which fosters positive attitudes toward numeracy, and affirms the importance of quantitative reasoning across the curriculum.
- Promote the teaching and learning of quantitative reasoning skills across all disciplines.
- Prepare numerate graduates to assume personal, civic and occupational responsibilities.
Participating faculty have agreed that the following are among the most important QR skills:
A brief history of the Project
- Construction and interpretation of graphs
- Estimation of real-world dimensions and their use in calculations
- Detection of patterns and inference of relationships in sets of data
- Analysis and prediction of trends
- Ratios, proportions and rates
- General functional relationships
- Probability and statistics
- Computer applications (e.g. spreadsheets for analyzing data and generating graphs)
The Quantitative Reasoning project has sponsored faculty development workshops each year since its inception, and is currently working with faculty fellows in History, Political Science, and Geology to develop teaching materials which may be useful in many Core classes. Additional activities have included the following.
Feb 18, 1998:
Louise Hainline presented a short description of the new Quantitative Reasoning project to the faculty at the Stated Meeting of the Faculty, in a session on new educational initiatives at the College.
April 7, 1998:
Louise Hainline presented on the NSF QR project in a session called "The Core as Frame for Innovation", at a conference entitled "Standard Bearer of Excellence: Brooklyn College's Core Curriculum.
May 8, 1998:
The Brooklyn College QR project organized a symposium in collaboration with colleagues at City College and New York City Technical College (which also received NSF Institution-Wide Reform grants in the same cycle as ours). The symposium was presented at a conference entitled "Shaping the Future: Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology", jointly sponsored by Borough of Manhattan Community College and the National Science Foundation. Peter Lesser did a presentation on our project, and Louise Hainline moderated discussion at the symposium.
November 21-23, 1998:
A Brooklyn College team consisting of Peter Lesser, George Brinton, Louise Hainline, and Kristen Zapalac (a student who had tutored for an NSF Freshman Block program) took part in an AAHE Conference on Institutional Change in Washington, DC. In addition to participating in general sessions at the meeting, at which the 59 institutions which had received NSF Institution-Wide Reform grants, a description of Brooklyn College's project appeared on the Conference Web site and was published in the conference report, Targeting Curricular Change: Reform in Undergraduate Education in Science, Math, Engineering, and Technology. The team made a number of useful contacts with people involved with national NSF-funded projects on improving quantitative reasoning for all students.
March 6, 1999:
George Brinton presented a paper, "Quantitative Reasoning Across a Core Curriculum," on our QR project at the second Regional Quantitative Reasoning Across the Disciplines Conference at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.
May 21, 1999:
The Brooklyn College QR project hosted an all-day conference for a regional audience on "Quantitative Literacy Across the Curriculum." The keynote speaker was Dr. Carolyn Wallace, the head of the NSF Mathematics across the Curriculum Project at Dartmouth College. Other participants included Dr. Alan Tucker, Director of the Long Island Consortium for Interconnected Learning, another of the NSF Mathematics across the Curriculum projects, and Dr. George Brinton, who spoke about faculty development to enhance quantitative reasoning teaching in Brooklyn College's Core Curriculum. The authors of one of the best-selling textbooks in QR, Dr. Jeffrey Bennett and Dr. William Briggs of the U. Colorado Boulder also presented on their experiences in teaching non-science majors quantitative reasoning. The conference was advertised at regional institutions and was attended by more than 40 faculty from BC, CUNY, and a number of regional colleges.
Peter Lesser and Louise Hainline took part in a one-week session on teaching quantitative reasoning to non-science students based on the NYU Core Curriculum, as part of NYU's Faculty Resource Network. The course was run by Dr. Fred Greenleaf and Dr. Andre Adler, published leaders in the QR across the Disciplines movement. The QR in the Undergraduate Curriculum sessions were attended by faculty from 8 other institutions; a web-based discussion group on the QR movement has been established to serve as a medium for exchange of ideas as a result of the seminar.
Project participants gave a presentation at the annual Core Seminar which included the following talks: Peter Lesser, "History of the QR Project at BC"; Louise Hainline, "Results from the faculty survey"; Michael Kahan, "Making Sense of Polling and Sampling" (Core 3); Jocelyn Wills, "Mapping the Industrial Revolution" (Core 4); Jonathan Adler, "Moral Motivation and the Prisoners' Dilemma" (Core 10).
August 25, 2000:
Louise Hainline presented a paper entitled "A Survey of Faculty Opinions about Quantitative Reasoning," based on a faculty survey recently completed at Brooklyn College, at the Third Regional Conference on Quantitative Reasoning Across the Disciplines, Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. The Stockton College QUAD project staff is interested in discussing the coordination of the next conference with the Brooklyn College QR project team.
May 8, 2001:
The Project co-sponsored the Third Annual Building Bridges Conference, with the Director of Freshman Year College and College Now at Brooklyn College, titled "Quantitative Literacy: The New Challenge." Featured speakers included Jaime Escalante and John Allen Paulos. Presenters/discussion leaders included Fred Greenleaf and Andre Adler from New York University, Louise Hainline and George Brinton representing the Brooklyn College QR Project. to share ideas on quantitative reasoning and deliver formal workshop presentation
The annual Transformations Seminar, sponsored by the Dean of Undergraduatge Studies, consisted of Brooklyn College faculty members from across the disciplines, the four Quantitative Reasoning Project coordinators and the Dean, who met reqularly throughout the semester to share ideas on quantitative reasoning and deliver formal workshop presentations about the inclusion of QR in curricular materials for use in introductory courses.
2001-2002 academic year:
A Quantitative Reasoning Task Force, chaired by Peter Lesser, met during the year to consider the possibility of introducing a QR general education requirement at Brooklyn College along the lines followed by a number of other colleges across the country.
April 20, 2002:
Peter Lesser and George Brinton represented Brooklyn College at the sixth annual meeting of the Northeast Consortium for Quantitative Literacy, held at Trinity College, Hartford.
Louise Hainline, Peter Lesser and two faculty participants in the QR Project presented papers in a Faculty Day Symposium titled "Quantitative Reasoning: Can We Teach It? Should We Teach It? A Symposium in memory of Michael Kahan."
Where do we go from here?
The program has run for three years as a grass-roots endeavor, and has had an impact on the BC community. In a recent survey our faculty indicated that the College is not doing an adequate job of preparing students in quantitative reasoning. The groundwork has been done for the College to take a leadership role both within CUNY and nationally in a quantitative reasoning initiative. Now we are ready to take this work to the next level.
A successful quantitative reasoning initiative at Brooklyn College might include:
- QR-intensive courses distributed across the Core
- A QR course
- QR fellows (comparable the writing fellows in WAC)
- Faculty development
- Development of instructional materials
- Conferences and networking
- Grant proposals