Central Washington University Context
1. What is the status of Quantitative Reasoning programming on your campus?
Our standard "Math for Liberal Arts Majors" course (Math 101) has changed recently from a "math appreciation" course to one focusing more on quantitative reasoning. We now use the Bennet & Briggs text. Several years ago the University supported a faculty development effort to include several in-depth and writing intensive projects in the course. Some initial assessments were conducted on the new project-based QR course. With partial support from NSF, one section of Math 101 this Fall will be taught using new materials from the University of Arkansas (Bernie Madison). This special section has a strong writing component as it will ask students to critically analyze quantitative arguments that are found in news stories. Following up on the changes made to Math 101, we developed a second QR course, Math 102. Students who do not need a standard introductory course in statistics and probability can choose to take Math 102 instead. Math 102 provides a sharper focus on the use and misuse of statistics in the news and how quantitative information can be used to strengthen arguments. Our University is beginning the slow process of transforming the General Education program on campus. As either Dr. Boersma or Dr. Montgomery (team members) have been involved in all such discussions, we are hopeful that QR will take a more prominent and interdisciplinary role than it has in the past. Several years ago, faculty from Hollins University came to give a presentation of their successes at implementing an interdisciplinary QR component into their general education program. Our University has recently adopted a set of Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning Standards which have been overwhelmingly approved by the University faculty.
2. What are the key learning goals that shape your current programming or that you hope to achieve?
As mentioned above, our University has recently adopted a set of Quantitative Reasoning Standards with three goals: Know and use Number Sense and Algebra; Be able to understand, analyze, and interpret quantitative information from a variety of sources; Be able to represent and understand the representation of contextually rich problems using such abstractions as symbols and graphs. Two years ago the Office of the President authorized the forming of the Center of Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education (CESME). Improving students' and preservice teachers' critical thinking skills is a major focus of CESME and has been involved in active research in this area. We have formed a team involving individuals responsible for the current QR components taught in the Department of Mathematics, who are participating in the current reformation of General Education, and who are involved in the improvement of mathematics and science K-16 education through CESME. Thus, our goals for the workshop are: 1) Become familiar with ways to use writing assignments to more fully evolve our students' critical thinking and quantitative reasoning skills. 2) Become more adept at assessing such writing assignments. 3) Identify specific strategies to better integrate QR in general education and our various teacher preparation programs.
3. Do you have QR assessment instruments in place? If so, please describe:
As part of the collaboration with Dr. Bernie Madison from the University of Arkansas, we plan on using the assessment instrument his project has been developing.
4. Considering your campus culture, what challenges or barriers do you anticipate in implementing or extending practices to develop and assess QR programming on your campus?
Developing a truly interdisciplinary approach to QR at a large state institution has many challenges and barriers. Within the Department of Mathematics, many of the General Education programs are taught by part-time or full-time non-tenure track faculty. Due to the turnover in these important positions, it can be difficult to provide appropriate training for QR assessment, and the assessment of student writing. Outside of the Department of Mathematics, there will likely be inertial forces that make it difficult to integrate QR throughout the entire curriculum rather than isolating it to one or two courses within the Mathematics.
5. Considering your campus culture, what opportunities or assets will be available to support your QR initiatives?
The General Education Committee is supportive of a more integrated QR program and is developing a new General Education program that would allow for more integration between the basic QR components of the program and the breadth requirements of the program. Similarly, CESME has created an interdisciplinary atmosphere in which science and mathematics educators can collaborate. All of these attempts are supported by the Department of Mathematics, which believes that QR is something that is best taught throughout the curriculum.