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Final Quantitative Reasoning Project: Planning a Sesquicentennial Celebration

This page authored by Corri Taylor, Wellesley College.
Author Profile
This material was originally developed by the the National Numeracy Network
as part of its collaboration with the SERC Pedagogic Service.


This project serves as the final project for Introduction to Quantitative Reasoning, a course for first-year students who need to improve their quantitative skills before they may enroll in quantitative coursework at Wellesley College. The project gives students practice spelling out assumptions, applying mathematical models, creating tables and graphs, and explaining calculations and models in writing.

Learning Goals

  • Make explicit assumptions that guide calculations for a loosely defined problem.
  • Use spreadsheets to perform unit conversions, budget costs, etc.
  • Use geometry (including volumes, surface areas, etc.) to solve a real world planning project.
  • Apply personal knowledge and skills related to personal finance. Specifically, work with regular payments and with lump sum payments.
  • Incorporate tables and graphs in a paper, with descriptive references to these materials in the body of the paper.

Context for Use

This final project is for first-year students in a basic skills quantitative reasoning course at Wellesley College. Course content included unit conversions, geometry, estimation, and personal finance. Students have used Excel throughout the course. The project is designed to give students a practical application that combines the various skills they have learned throughout the semester.

Description and Teaching Materials

Image of fireworks

This final project challenges students to combine unit conversions, geometry, estimation, and personal finance modeling in one holistic, real world analysis. Students write an executive summary and a longer document supported by tables, graphs and calculations.

Student have fun with this project. They plan an elaborate dinner celebration and figure out how to construct a decorative wooden display cake from which helium balloons are released, just before a fireworks display. Students budget for all the relevant costs and consider various approaches to saving enough funds to cover thees future expenses.

The details of the assignment are here. Final QR Project Instructions (Microsoft Word 30kB May16 08)

Teaching Notes and Tips

Students are allowed to work on this project independently or in groups of two or three individuals.


I use a simple rubric for assessing these projects:
  • Executive Summary (15 points)
  • Dinner Party Details (25)
  • Plan for Decorative Cake: Structure, Balloons (20)
  • Costs of Cake (10)
  • Funding (10 points for each plan)
  • Overall Layout/Professionalism: Graphs, Writing, Clarity, Coordination (10)

References and Resources