Initial Publication Date: May 14, 2019

The Importance of Teaching Quantitative Reasoning in Higher Education

Desiree Lonon, Chemistry & Forensic Science, Savannah State University

Quantitative Reasoning "(QR) requires students to think critically and apply basic mathematics and statistics skills to interpret data, draw conclusions, and solve problems within a disciplinary or interdisciplinary context" (Elrod 2014). General chemistry students are required to meet these same expectations in order to master the concepts in the class. As an institutional learning outcome at Savannah State University, one goal of the University is to help students develop this skill across all disciplines. We use quantitative information to make conclusions in order to solve problems and make decisions in real life. Teaching QR using real world data is important in higher education.

Before now, my approach to teaching QR has not been that intentional. As the saying goes "when you know better, you do better". My hope is that after attending this workshop I am more equipped to create assignments that encourage QR using real-world data. Now that I'm becoming aware of ways to achieve this, the possibilities are endless.

In the past, I've used a real-world scenario involving a medication error to teach dimensional analysis. The students used the information given to calculate the correct dosage that would have prevented a patient from dying. The assignment required students to convert medical units, but it still made an impact. It impressed upon some students the importance of learning the concept of converting units. In the future, I to intend to use a case study about the Flint Michigan Water Crisis. It will help students learn about different chemical reactions such as precipitation, redox, and neutralization reactions. After this exercise, students will be able to distinguish between the different chemical reactions, solubility, and draw conclusions on what might have been done to prevent water contamination.

One way to strengthen the connection between real-world data sets and classroom activities is to use data that is relevant to the student. Many of the students who take the general chemistry course are aspiring health professionals. When the medication error assignment was introduced, students seemed attentive and they engaged in the task at hand. This assignment sparked a lively about the responsibility of proper patient care. When a learning concept can be tied to real life, it may be easier to retain what is learned.

Introductory level science students do not always have the basic math skills or critical thinking skills necessary to begin to develop or advance in QR. To work around this, group work is encouraged in class. Students are divided into groups of two or three to work on a set of problems. Those students who have mastered those basic math skills are able to help other students who are not as confident. The learning support course for general chemistry also uses group work to foster a sense of community in the classroom.

Teaching QR using real world data is important in higher education. It helps to create active and meaningful learning experiences. Because there are vast amounts data that's easily accessible, QR is an essential skill for college graduates.

Elrod, S. (Summer 2014) Quantitative Reasoning: The Next "Across the Curriculum Movement" Peer Review, Vol. 16, No. 3

Downloadable version of this essay

The Importance of Teaching Quantitative Reasoning in Higher Education (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 15kB May2 19)