Quantitative Skills > Community > Infusing Quantitative Literacy into Introductory Geoscience Courses Workshop

June 26-28, 2006
Carleton College, Northfield, MN


Geoscientists recognize the importance of quantitative thinking in our field. Introductory courses can demonstrate the quantitative aspects of geoscience while increasing the quantitative literacy of a large population of students, many of whom will take no further science courses.

In June 2006, 29 faculty members from high schools, 2-year, and 4-year institutions participated in this workshop to discuss the importance and implementation of courses and activities that include QL in introductory geoscience. Workshop participants explored challenges and best practices for increasing students' QL. Participants identified several obstacles to including QL (e.g., student attitudes, faculty preparation, lack of institutional and textbook support, and insufficient problem-solving skill instruction) and worked to identify measures that might be useful in overcoming those obstacles. Because the inclusion of QL must incorporate essential instruction, work time and support for students, participants worried that some loss of geologic content may be necessary. As a result, participants identified multiple broad geologic topics and best practice strategies for incorporating QL into their courses without significant loss of content. The outcomes of this workshop include ideas for overcoming perceived obstacles, examples of best practices (in and outside of geoscience), and participants' quantitatively-rich student activities and model syllabi for courses suffused with student practice of quantitative skills.

Best Practices

Several educators from the geosciences, mathematics and physics discussed ways that they have been working to increase students' quantitative literacy. There were many other presentations and discussions that can be found on the Workshop Program

Percieved obstacles

Participants recognized that quantitative literacy (QL) involves students engaging in a "habit of mind" that uses data in everyday context (Steen, 2004) and geoscience courses can provide excellent context for timely problems that are data-rich. However, few introductory geoscience courses are rich in QL. Several groups at the workshop identified a number of difficulties and obstacles to increasing the QL of their courses:

Courses infused with QL

At the workshop, faculty worked to infuse courses with quantitatve literacy exercises. Their many models often addressed the obstacles of student attitudes/preparation. Examples include: Browse all of the model courses and syllabi.

Ready-to-use activities infused with quantitative skills

Workshop participants also produced a number of ready-to-use, downloadable activities, laboratory assignments and tutorials. Each is designed to help faculty to integrate quantitative literacy into introductory courses. A few examples include: Browse all submitted activities

Workshop Leaders


This opportunity is made possible by grant number NSF-03-04762 from the Geoscience Directorate of the National Science Foundation.

Disclaimer: Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


      Next Page »