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Quantitative Literacy Across the Curriculum in a Liberal Arts Setting

Semra Kiliç-Bahi and Ben Steele
Colby-Sawyer College, New London, NH

Supported by NSF DUE #0633133, 2007-2009

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The project's goal is to incorporate Quantitative Literacy (QL) across the curriculum to improve students' abilities to use quantitative information. QL learning materials have been developed throughout the curriculum. Faculty expertise with QL has been developed through two workshops, involving nearly 50% of the faculty and the participation of national QL experts. Project investigators will evaluate student learning with tests and surveys.

Project Goals

The goal of this project is to develop an across the curriculum quantitative literacy (QL) program that will strengthen students' ability to use basic mathematical concepts in their majors, future careers and personal lives. We have objectives for students, faculty, curriculum, and the greater academic community.


  • Improve students' understanding of the value and importance of QL.
  • Improve students' ability to use simple mathematical skills to solve real problems.
  • Involve students in the implementation of the project.
  • Improve faculty understanding of the value and importance of QL.
  • Increase faculty participation in QL related faculty development events.
  • Improve faculty members' confidence with quantitative skills.
  • Increase the number of QL related classroom material developed and implemented by faculty.
  • Promote QL as a collective, across-the-college responsibility.
  • Increase the mathematical content across the curriculum.
  • Implement change in the liberal education program by including a QL component in addition to the current one-course requirement in mathematics.
  • Create a committee to ensure sustainability of QL components in the curriculum.
Greater Academic Community
  • Develop materials and ideas that will be made available to other institutions.
  • Publish and present project results at conferences.

Project Design/Elements

Faculty development
  • Two, 4 day summer faculty development workshops in which 28 faculty from Colby-Sawyer and nearby institutions developed QL modules for their classes. As of May 2009, sixteen of these are published on the Colby-Sawyer web site. These paid workshops were facilitated by QL experts and included time for research and development of materials.
  • Faculty were encouraged to attend these workshops through informal conversations, presentations at faculty meetings, and personal invitations to attend conferences.
  • QL topics are presented annually as part of the existing faculty development seminar program.
  • Publication of QL resources for faculty development.
Curriculum Design:
  • We redesigned existing mathematics courses to be QL courses, including Liberal Arts math, Statistics, and College Algebra.
  • QL components have been added to other classes as a result of the workshops described above. We plan to have at least 24 faculty members add QL modules to one of their courses and increase the QL content of the entire curriculum by 10%.
  • We have changed the current mathematics proficiency to a QL proficiency with appropriate learning outcomes.
  • We have established a permanent committee charged with sustaining QL.
  • We plan to develop a new course in Quantitative Reasoning using higher level mathematics for students with strong math skills.
  • We hope to add a QL element to the electronic portfolio that is required of every student.
  • We hope to incorporate a requirement for QL learning beyond the one course requirement.
Student participation
  • Through the Academic Development Center we have trained peer (student) tutors to help faculty delivering specific QL modules.
  • Student volunteers helped present evening programs on QL topics in residence halls.

Evaluation and Assessment Strategies


  • We have developed tests to assess (1) basic mathematical skills and prerequisite mathematical skills, (2) basic QL skills (using basic mathematical skills to solve problems), and (3) students' attitudes towards mathematics. These tests are administered to first year students and seniors.
  • As a pilot of a program that might make use of the students' liberal education portfolio to assess QL abilities, students in some math classes have been presented with a complex problem solving question that they will respond to. We hope to have students expand on this first response in future years as their critical thinking and QL skills develop.
  • Individual classroom projects are assessed with pre and post tests.
  • QL assessment is embedded in assessments of some majors.
  • Some of the questions in the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) address QL issues. This instrument is given to first year and senior students. We will analyze responses to these questions.


  • We surveyed faculty in the first year of the project to learn how many of their courses include quantitative components, what skills are involved, and how much of the course and the grade is based on the quantitative component. We also surveyed them on their attitudes towards math and its value in their discipline. These surveys will be repeated in 2009.
  • We document attendance at QL workshops and seminars.


  • We evaluate syllabi at the beginning and at the end of the project to see the extent of the quantitative content.
  • We evaluate learning outcomes for majors to see if they include quantitative concepts.

Products, Key Findings, Publications

Steele, B. and S Kılıç-Bahi. 2008. Quantitative Literacy Across the Curriculum: A Case Study. Numeracy 1 (2).

Kiliç-Bahi, S. and B. Steele. 2008. What is the main issue we face as a society? Quantitative writing classroom project. Available at