GOAL: QUANTITATIVE LITERACY:
The Quantitative Inquiry, Reasoning,
and Knowledge (Quirk) initiative
Notes from Arguing with Numbers: Teaching Quantitative Reasoning through
Argument and Writing, Neil Lutsky, Carleton College* (distributed by Beloit College without proper citation!)
Strengthening students’ quantitative reasoning is an imperative of contemporary general education
A fitting context for quantitative reasoning is argumentation, the construction, communication, and evaluation of arguments.
The quantitative reasoning habits students need to learn are primarily simple and non-technical.
Quantitative reasoning across the curriculum might be intertwined with
II. Goals - ?The
world of the twenty-first century is a world awash in numbers?
As educators we need to draw attention to why numbers are so widelyused
in modern life. Numbers can contribute to precision in our thinking, facilitate
the public discussion
and evaluation of claims, help us grasp the attributes of large and complex
phenomena, organize vast domains of information, and help us discover patterns
of relationships not readily available to human perception. In sum, numbers are not only important because they
are pervasive; they are pervasive because they are
B. [A] list of broad aims for contemporary
undergraduate education, includes strengthening communication skills, critical
thinking, moral reasoning, responsible citizenship, appreciations of diversity,
involvement in a global society, breadth of knowledge, and preparations for
…numeracy is not something mastered in a single course.
there were at least two general ways in which students used quantitative
reasoning in written argumentation:
(i) peripherally and (ii) centrally.
Peripheral uses cite numbers to provide details, enrich descriptions, present
background, or establish frames of reference.
Central uses of numbers address a primary question, issue, or theme in a
III. STAR evaluation.
the substantiation for claims in terms of four criteria, STAR.
1. Sufficiency, whether there is enough
Typicality, whether the evidence presented is representative.
Accuracy, whether the data are true.
Relevance, whether the evidence is centrally connected to the claim.
information can be evaluated as evidence in light of these criteria and
can also provide the grounds for reasoning about the adequacy of
substantiations offered for a claim.
IV. 10 Quantitative Reasoning “Questions at the Ready”
What do the numbers show?
How typical is that?
3. Compared to
Are findings those of a single study or source or of multiple studies or
How were the main characteristics measured?
Who or what was studied?
Is the outcome of a study anything more than noise or chance?
How large is the result of a study?
What was the design of the study?
What else might be influencing the findings?
ask students in writing assignments to use numbers to set an example or case
study of primary
interest in a paper in its wider context.
for expressing numbers in writing,
including seven basic ones. These are: (1) establish
the context, (2) choose effective examples and analogies, (3) use an
appropriate vocabulary, (4) decide where to present numbers, (5) report and
interpret numbers in text, (6) specify the size and direction of associations,
and (7) summarize overall patterns.
the weasel word problem, highlights overuse of the terms “many,”
“often,” “some,” and others
the staples problem, refers to papers in which quantitative information
in the form of tables and figures is stapled onto a paper but not interpreted
in the text
the comparison problem, indicates instances in which students cite
numbers but do not provide frames of reference that might make those numbers
a terminology variability
problem - Different academic disciplines socialize students to give words
such as “experiment” more or less restricted meanings.
information and what form of information will be meaningful to readers?