College Algebra, Quantitative Literacy, Social Issues


This paper discusses the development of an innovative college algebra text designed for use in a data-driven, activity-oriented college algebra course, incorporating realistic problem situations emphasizing social and economic issues, including hunger and poverty, energy, and the environment. The course incorporates quantitative literacy themes, is informed by existing college algebra texts within the college algebra reform movement, and implements a collaborative pedagogical approach intended to provide future K-12 teachers an alternative model for the teaching of mathematics. The paper contains a short history of the project development phase, supported by an NSF grant (DUE #0442979), as well as the perceived role of the project in the college algebra reform and quantitative literacy movements. We make a short case for redefining the content of a college algebra course and acknowledging that for many students, it has become a terminal mathematics course. A description of the contents of the text, its relation to more traditional college algebra content, and four example student activities are included (on the topics of homelessness, the effects of airline deregulation, real estate versus savings as investment instruments, and the 2008 election). A summary of evaluation and assessment data from five years of pilot-testing, done primarily in conjuction with our NSF grant evaluation plan, is provided.