The University Record, March 8, 1993

LS&A faculty to discuss quantitative reasoning requirement

By Mary Jo Frank

A proposal requiring each student seeking a B.S., A.B. or B.G.S. degree to take a quantitative reasoning course will be presented to LS&A faculty at their meeting today (March 8).

The meeting begins at 4:10 p.m. in Auditorium B, Angell Hall.

The Task Force on a Quantitative Reasoning Requirement will recommend that the faculty approve at their April meeting the principle of a graduation requirement in quantitative reasoning, which would be resubmitted to the faculty for final approval in January 1994.

The task force proposes that the graduation requirement be effective for students entering fall 1994 and that a number of new courses be developed to serve students in the social sciences and humanities for whom current quantitative course offerings may not be appropriate.

“This proposal would make an important change in our graduation requirements,” says Dean Edie N. Goldenberg, who notes “it is an outgrowth of work done in the last several years to rethink our undergraduate experience.”

The proposal will be of interest to all faculty and to many departments that could be involved in offering courses to meet such a requirement, Goldenberg adds.

Quantitative reasoning, according to the task force, involves defining a problem, determining how to solve it, deducing consequences, formulating alternatives and predicting outcomes. It also includes some aspect that is quantitative involving numerical or geometrical representation of real-world phenomena.

“Quantitative reasoning is not mathematical manipulation or computation, but rather the logical process required to make useful judgments based on quantitative information,” according to the task force.

About 75 percent of LS&A students currently take a course that includes training in quantitative methods.

If approved, the quantitative reasoning requirement (QRR) would not add to the total number of courses that students must take. Courses approved to meet other degree requirements, such as area distribution or concentration, could also be approved as fulfilling the QRR.

A QRR course would require students to engage in a “significant and substantial” way in the following activities:

—Mathematical modeling of real-world phenomena;

—Analysis of numerical or geometrical information for the purpose of making decisions, judgments or predictions based on this information; and

—Critical judgment of conclusions based on statistical or geometrical reasoning.

In its report to the faculty, the task force notes that an understanding of quantitative methods of problem-solving has become an essential part of the education of students today.

“We believe that the QRR will foster the development of quantitative abilities in our students from all areas—natural sciences, social sciences and humanities,” the task force writes.

Task force members believe the existence of such a requirement would be an incentive to departments to improve or adjust existing courses and develop new ones designed to attract students who now avoid quantitative areas.

“Such innovative courses, imaginatively taught, could serve as gateways to realms of knowledge and educational experiences and opportunities currently denied to students with debilitating math anxieties or inadequate math backgrounds,” the task force concludes.

Task force members also believe a quantitative reasoning requirement could serve as a guide and stimulus to high schools to increase the emphasis on concepts rather than mechanics in their math and science curricula.

The task force is chaired by Peter G. Hinman (mathematics). Other members are Rosina L. Lippi-Green (Germanic languagues), Philip J. Hanlon (mathematics), Edward D. Rothman (statistics), Carl P. Simon (economics) and Michael W. Traugott (political science).