What is Teaching Quantitative Reasoning with the News?

Initial Publication Date: October 29, 2009

Using newspaper articles to teach quantitative reasoning (QR) is a teaching method which
  • Creates a more exciting learning atmosphere by using variable content, a healthy dose of unpredictability, and exposure to numerous non-mathematical topics;
  • Makes the relevance of quantitative reasoning more apparent to students and teachers;
  • Allows students to contribute in ways not typical in many mathematics classes; and
  • Naturally allows a teacher to spiral through important themes as they are encountered several times throughout a typical course.

By using newspaper articles to form the foundation for a QR course, the content is provided by a non-mathematical authority (newspaper reporters and editors). This focus also implies that the quantitative topics studied in the course must be the type of QR skills that are assumed every average person has. What college graduates shouldn't be able to read, understand, and intelligently discuss an article found in The New York Times or the San Francisco Chronicle? Thus, the relevance of the content under discussion in a news-based course is much more obvious, perhaps, than other quantitative reasoning courses. Additionally, students can bring in newspaper articles which are of interest to them or touch upon subjects they have personal knowledge about. Since every mathematical topic is studied in context, students can feel more at ease to enter into class discussions. Being unclear about the mathematics does not prohibit student participation as they can offer opinions or arguments based upon their reading of the article. Rather than being a course taught in a linear fashion, many themes are encountered over and over, producing a natural spiraling approach to important concepts such as comparisons, percents, percent change, and graphical analysis.

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