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ERIC Number: EJ1002379
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 9
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 8
ISSN: ISSN-0021-3667
Quantitative Courses in a Liberal Education Program: A Case Study
Wismath, Shelly L.; Mackay, D. Bruce
Journal of General Education, v61 n4 p314-322 2012
This essay argues for the importance of quantitative reasoning skills as part of a liberal education and describes the successful introduction of a mathematics-based quantitative skills course at a small Canadian university. Today's students need quantitative problem-solving skills, to function as adults, professionals, consumers, and citizens in an increasingly information-based society. In spring 2006 the authors were asked by the Faculty of Arts and Science at the university to design and teach a Quantitative Reasoning (QR) course. Their course development focused on three main strands. First, students must have some basic numerical knowledge and skills; they need a good number sense and what Cockcroft called an "at homeness" with numbers, including the number system and the basic arithmetic and algebra of numbers as well as a number of other topics. Beyond this, they want students to gain higher-order skills such as problem solving, modeling, estimation, and communication skills, as part of the critical-thinking skills of liberal education. Students need the first strand to understand numerical data and the second to be able to interpret, evaluate, and use them. Third, attitude and habits of mind are crucial to a student's willingness and ability to engage with quantitative material. Twenty-two students registered for the first offering of the QR course, piloted as Topics Course LibEd 2850, in the spring 2007 semester. This first offering of the course was very challenging to teach. The instructor is a mathematician who teaches a variety of mathematics and statistics courses. In such courses she usually knows quite clearly who the students are: their background, their career goals, exactly what they know and do not know, and what they are likely to find difficult. In this course, the students and their backgrounds were an unknown, and very diverse, group for her. Overall the instructor found the course quite exhilarating to teach. A very good rapport was developed with students, and their enthusiasm fed and was fed by the instructor's love of mathematics and desire to share the knowledge and tools it offers with the students. Student response was very positive, with a number of enthusiastic comments in the math logs and end-of-semester student evaluations about how interesting the historical topics were and how very relevant and useful the financial section was.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A