The University Record, January 10, 1994

Faculty to vote on QR requirement

By Mary Jo Frank

LS&A faculty members are expected to approve today a quantitative reasoning requirement for all LS&A students, beginning with those who enter in fall 1994.

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

Last April, LS&A faculty passed “in principle” a proposal from the Task Force on Quantitative Reasoning requiring each student seeking a B.S., A.B. or B.G.S. degree to complete successfully one course of three credits or more in quantitative reasoning (QR). The faculty asked the task force to develop a list of courses that would meet the QR requirement and present the list for a final vote this month.

Task force chair Peter Hinman says he has high hopes that the faculty will approve the requirement. Noting that passage of the preliminary proposal was unanimous in April, Hinman said the Curriculum Committee supports the task force’s final recommendation.

Michael M. Martin, associate dean for undergraduate education, agrees that faculty support the idea of a quantitative reasoning requirement.

In a written report to the faculty, the task force identifies two categories of potential courses that could be used to fulfill the requirement: QR/1 (full QR credit) or QR/2 (half QR credit).

To accommodate this two-tier structure, the task force is recommending a revised description of the QR requirement:

All students admitted to the College for the Fall Term of 1994 and thereafter must meet the Quantitative Reasoning requirement. Students may fulfill this requirement either by:

(1) Successfully completing one course (of 3 credits or more) designated QR/1 (for full QR credit); or

(2) Successfully completing two courses (at least one of which must be 3 credits or more) designated QR/2 (for half QR credit).

Certification criteria for courses are to be based on the following broad principles:

  • Quantitative reasoning is first and foremost reasoning. It involves defining a problem, determining how to solve it, deducing consequences, formulating alternatives and predicting outcomes. It also must include some aspect that is quantitative, involving numerical or geometrical representation of real-world phenomena. Quantitative reasoning is the methodology used to process and analyze quantitative information to make decisions, judgments and predictions.

  • Quantitative reasoning is not mathematical manipulation or computation, but rather the logical process required to make useful judgments based on quantitative information. “Hence,” the task force concluded, “the quantitative reasoning requirement is not intended to address the complaint often heard from science faculty that students do not have the specific mathematical skills needed in science courses, although it may well be part of a movement which will have a salutary effect in this area.”

    Satisfying the quantitative reasoning requirement

    Courses that satisfy the criteria must provide students with quantitative tools and require them to make significant use of these tools in the context of the other course material. Some typical student activities might be:

  • Determining whether a proposed relationship between two or more quantities exists or is valid and the extent to which other related variables need to be taken into account.

  • Extensive written analysis of quantitative relationships and the conclusions that can be drawn from them.

  • Working on quantitative exercises and problems whose answer cannot be reduced to a single number, formula or phrase—in particular, cannot be answered by a choice from a list.

  • Design experiments or surveys to gather quantitative data to answer a real-world question.

  • Solving complex real-world problems using non-routine calculations based on a non-trivial theory.

    Some mathematical modeling might not count

    Some courses that might involve mathematical modeling, the task force notes, wouldn’t qualify for QR certification. They include those in which students are given models or systems of formulas and asked to produce numerical or qualitative answers by processing data with little analysis required.

    Other course characteristics that generally would not count as quantitative reasoning include:

  • Use of a computer package to perform a calculation or study, unless the results are subjected to extensive critical analysis, compared with other quantitative data.

  • Routine calculations or symbolic manipulations.

  • Critical reasoning that involves numerical or geometric ideas in a primarily descriptive way.

    QR course certification currently is being determined by the task force. A subcommittee of the LS&A Curriculum Committee will take over this role in fall 1994.