SSAC and Quantitative Literacy

Initial Publication Date: October 23, 2007

Quantitative Literacy, the opposite of math avoidance, is the habit of mind which enables a person to engage quantitative material in order to solve a problem or to frame an argument. Like maturity, quantitative literacy comes with experience and growth. The goal of Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum (SSAC) is to promote this experience and growth.

Why Across the Curriculum?

  • "Mathematics asks students to rise above context, while quantitative literacy asks students to stay in context. Mathematics is about general principles that can be applied in a range of contexts; quantitative literacy is about seeing every context through a quantitative lens." Deborah Hughes-Hallett, (2001) "Achieving Numeracy: The Challenge of Implementation" (pg. 93-98), in: L.A. Steen (editor), Mathematics and Democracy, National Council on Education and the Disciplines, p. 93-98. Browse the book

  • "Quantitative literacy cannot be regarded as the sole responsibility of high school mathematics teachers or of college teachers in mathematics departments. It has long been recognized, for example, that instruction in writing literacy, isolated in English composition courses, cannot succeed. Students quickly recognize that a requirement satisfied by a course or two in a single department is a local 'hoop' to be jumped through, not a global requirement central to their education. Students often behave as if mathematical ideas are applicable only in mathematics courses, so that once they enter the world of their chosen major they can safely forget whatever they learned in those courses." 
    Randall M. Richardson and William G, McCallum (2003), "The Third R in Literacy", in B. Madison and L.A. Steen, Quantitative Literacy: Why Numeracy Matters for Schools and Colleges, National Council on Education and the Disciplines, p. 99-106 Browse the book

  • "The cornerstone of quantitative literacy is the ability to apply quantitative ideas in new or unfamiliar contexts. This is very different from most students' experience of mathematics courses, in which the vast majority of problems are of types that they have seen before.... Mathematics courses that concentrate on teaching algorithms, but not on varied applications in context, are unlikely to develop quantitative literacy. To imporve quantitative literacy, we have to wrestle with the difficult task of getting students to analyze novel situations...." 
    Deborah Hughes-Hallett, 2003. "The Role of Mathematics Courses in the Development of Quantitative Literacy", in B. Madison and L.A. Steen, Quantitative Literacy: Why Numeracy Matters for Schools and Colleges, National Council on Education and the Disciplines, p. 91-98. Browse the book

More Links to Quantitative Literacy

... the need for a high level of quantitative literacy ... is reinforced by individual freedoms, economic competitiveness, and the lack of economic safety nets. QL offers tools for survival in a Darwinian society.
Bernard L. Madison and Lynn Arthur Steen (2008), "Evolution of Numeracy and the National Numeracy Network" Numeracy -- Advancing Education in Quantitative Literacy, the electronic journal of the National Numeracy Network, v. 1, n.1
  • QL Special Interest Group of the Mathematics Association of America: SigMAA QL homepage
  • International Statistical Literacy Project of the International Association for Statistical Education ISLP homepage
  • QL and Chance including the lively Chance News: Chance Website (Dartmouth)
  • Extensive bibliography into 1999, including links: Lynn Steen's QL bibliography
  • The National Numeracy Network
    The National Numeracy Network (NNN) is a network of individuals, institutions and corporations united by the common goal of quantitative literacy for all citizens. The NNN envisions a society where all citizens possess the power and habit of mind to search out quantitative information, critique it, reflect upon it, and apply it in their public, personal and professional lives. Learn more about the NNN