The Course

Course Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 180kB Jul16 08)

Course Design

Course Management and Strategies

For our SENCER course we modified a fairly traditional quantitative literacy course by incorporating collaborative group projects that addressed campus or local community issues. Therefore, in this section we will focus on the general structure and assessment of the group projects. Pedagogical issues are discussed in detail in our course manual (see We present here the generic project framework (which includes a statement of purpose, introductory reading, four project stages, and a timeline), a detailed description of what is due at each stage, and the overall project evaluation rubric. Our course manual contains the complete project frameworks for all projects developed during 2005-6, additional assessment tools, other materials that we developed and everything needed to present a model project on student loan debt.


Generic (or Design Your Own) Project Framework

Purpose: What is the purpose/focus of the project? How does the project connect to your own community (on/off campus)? Be sure to consider what sort of mathematical skills it is likely to require.

Introductory Reading: List some appropriate background reading

Project Stages

Stage 1. Background Investigation: In addition to background reading what other information should be gathered?

Stage 2. Planning and Preparation: Plan and prepare to gather data, information, or evidence appropriate to answering your question by applying knowledge gained from this course. This might involve a survey, focus groups, interviews or developing a case study.

Stage 3. Action, Analysis, Conclusion: Collect and analyze information and evidence by applying knowledge gained from this course. This might involve the following: tabulate the data, represent it using graphs, compute numerical summaries, find confidence intervals. For case studies, include calculations and any underlying assumptions. Draw conclusions.

Stage 4. Response/Dissemination: Write a report, prepare an oral report and a PowerPoint presentation, and undertake an active response to your findings. This might include recommendations to the class, a letter to the campus newspaper, or a presentation at an undergraduate research conference.


Please discuss your project idea with your instructor.

Week 3 - Submit a one-page (maximum) written proposal for your project idea stating:

  • What is the purpose/focus of the project?
  • How does the project connect to your own community (on/off campus?)
  • What sort of mathematical skills is it likely to require?
  • Suggested background reading

Week 4 - Student groups and project topics are finalized

Week 7 - Stage 1 deadline for completion

Week 10 - Stage 2 deadline for completion

Week 12 - Stage 3 deadline for completion

Week 15- Stage 4 deadline for completion

Projects: What is Due at the End of Each Stage?

Stage 1: Due in Week 7 of the Semester
What is Due at the End of Stage 1?
  1. Cover sheet with project title, members' names, date, stage number.
  2. An annotated bibliography of each of the resources.
  3. A paragraph summary of what your group learned from the background investigation.
  4. A glossary of terms pertinent to your project.
  5. A photocopy of the notes you have taken during this stage.
Stage 2: Due in Week 10 of the Semester
What is Due at the End of Stage 2?
  1. An outline of your plan of action for the investigation.
  2. Depending on your project:
    1. For projects with surveys: a copy of the survey instrument together with a description of your proposed sampling method.
    2. For case studies: a copy of your case study referenced with footnotes, other supporting documents, and data collection forms.
  3. A copy of any (new) notes or calculations.
Stage 3: Due in Week 12 of the Semester
What is Due at the End of Stage 3?
  1. A copy of all of the data collected, calculations performed, and resulting graphics. If a survey was involved these would typically include mean, median, mode, standard deviation, confidence interval for the mean, and a box-plot. If a case study was involved, then give sources for the data and clearly state any assumptions made for the calculations.
  2. A paragraph summarizing what your group learned from the action, analysis and conclusion stage.
  3. A brief statement of your conclusion.
  4. If this was a Design Your Own Project, also submit a formal project framework including the purpose, suggested background reading, and a description of each of the 4 stages. Use the project frameworks given out at the beginning of the semester as a guide for this.
Stage 4: Due in Week 14 of the Semester
What is Due at the End of Stage 4?
  1. The Written Report for Your Project
The following lists essential components of and provides a uniform structure for your written report.

Title: The title must capture the central theme of the paper. It should be short. Usually it is centered, bold, and is in a larger font that the rest of the paper.

Names: List the names of your group members below the title.

Table of Contents: Help the reader easily navigate through your report with a table of contents/tabs/page numbers. NOTE: If this was a Design Your Own Project, include a final version of the Project Framework (purpose, background reading, and description of the 4 stages) immediately after the Table of Contents.

Introduction: Catch the reader's attention and then clearly state the topic or problem and explain your goals.

Main Body: Organize the main body logically so that it is easy to follow. Divide it into several sections using section headings as needed. Be sure that your data is presented and summarized in appropriate ways. Include summary statistics such as mean, median, standard deviation, and 5-number summaries, as appropriate. Also, include histograms, bar charts, pie charts etc. as appropriate. Address the question of validity of your sample or rationale for your case study approach. Do not include large amounts of raw data in this section; put these in an Appendix. Do show the details of important calculations, but put these in an Appendix. Remember, your paper will be evaluated (in part) on having adequate and correct mathematical content.

Conclusion: Summarize the conclusions of the project. Include any limitations of your work and suggestions of related topics for future work that could extend this project.

Bibliography: Provide documentation of all sources including full documentation on web sources (not just a URL).

Data and Calculations Appendices: Place all raw data and calculations in
separate appendices.

Action Response Appendix: Include in a separate appendix the response action (letter, article, memo and summary report, etc.) you have taken as a result of your project (see item #3 below).

Proof read, proof read, proof read!!

2. The Oral Report

Aside from the bibliography and appendices, your oral presentation should have the same features as your written report. However, your oral report is to be just 20 minutes long (15 minutes for the actual presentation and 5 minutes for question and answers and transition), and so you will not be able to cover all of the material in your written report. All team members need to be a part of the presentation. The following lists a few tips for giving a mathematical talk.

Organize and prepare your talk ahead of time. Experienced speakers know that a lot of preparation is required to give a concise and interesting talk. There is a wonderful quote, attributed to Abraham Lincoln: "If you want me to give a ten minute speech, give me two weeks