National Numeracy Network > QRurrent Events > Past Events > NSF Numeracy Projects Supporting QL in Education > NSF-Supported Project Profiles > Quantitative Reasoning in the Contemporary World (QRCW)

Quantitative Reasoning in the Contemporary World (QRCW)

Bernard L. Madison, University of Arkansas
Stuart Boersma, Central Washington University
Caren L. Diefenderfer, Hollins University
Shannon W. Dingman, University of Arkansas

Start Date: June 2007 (NSF: DUE-0715039)
Description of Project as of May 2009

For more Information


The ability to reason about issues that mix words and numbers is now an essential competency for US residents. The proliferation of quantitative data and analyses has reached all aspects of life in the US, including informed participation in democratic processes. Traditional education in mathematics and statistics is not sufficiently effective for the quantitative reasoning (QR) required, so innovations are necessary. This project will continue the development of an educational infrastructure about an innovative QR course, first offered at the University of Arkansas in Fall 2004 and has evolved through subsequent offerings. This project will focus on creating assessments and scoring rubrics to measure both learning in the course and to compare that learning to the learning in two other courses, one somewhat similar and one traditional. Efforts to make the course transportable, adaptable, and more effective are also emphasized. Several research questions concerning QR will be investigated in the process. The innovative course derives from a collection of newspaper and magazine articles and is organized by processes of QR and not by mathematical or statistical topics. The project will produce a volume of case studies of QR-based media articles, an accompanying volume documenting the learning results, pedagogical strategies, and a guide for using the volume of case studies in a QR course, including classroom videos of students reasoning about quantitative situations.

Project Goals


1. Produce a Casebook of media articles for use in teaching QR and as a set of examples of materials that can be produced by both faculty and students.
  • Second edition due in 2009.
  • Instructor's guide in preparation. This supplement will include pedagogical lessons learned from teaching the course, instructional techniques, sample syllabi, scoring rubrics, and sample responses to the case study questions.
2. Provide faculty development to increase the number of instructors and assess the adaptability of these materials to other campuses.
  • Hollins University and Central Washington University began using course materials in Fall 2008.
3. Produce an instrument for assessing QR.
  • Instrument designed with 17 multiple choice, 3 free response and 5 attitudinal items. Pretest/post test analysis shows student gains on all three campuses. (available for download (Microsoft Word 967kB May1 09))
  • This instrument is currently being revised and aligned with the learning goals in the second edition of the Casebook.

Research Questions

4. Study the way students reason quantitatively and identify impediments for student success in QR.
  • Analyze videos of think aloud sessions with small student groups and videos of the Fall 2008 QRCW classes.
5. Explore ways to categorize the various uses of units across all disciplines and investigate possible unifying constructs.

6. Identify language issues in QR, for example, common uses of phrases such as "times more/less" and uses of language distinguishing relative change from absolute change.

Project Design/Elements

The Casebook has evolved from articles first collected in 2001 for the forum on quantitative literacy held at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington D.C. Classroom experience and advice from expert advisory panel have guided the development of the Casebook to its present form.

Recent dissemination and presentations on QRCW materials have increased interest from additional faculty and institutions.

Professional development has occurred by way of faculty mentoring and dissemination of the instructors guide.

Evaluation and Assessment Strategies

Analyze pe- and post-testing results.
Summarize student attitude survey results.
Interdisciplinary panel of experts are reviewing the curricular materials and assessment instrument.
Record number of instructors and institutions using materials.

Products, Key Findings, Publications

Case Studies for Quantitative Reasoning: A Casebook of Media Articles by Bernard L. Madison and Shannon Dingman, Pearson Custom Publishing, 2008.

Second edition due in 2009 with added co-authors Stuart Boersma and Caren L. Diefenderfer.

Related or Similar Projects

The College Ready Partnership in Mathematics and Physics at the University of Arkansas will use the QRCW materials in summer professional development workshops for middle and high school mathematics and science teachers.