Quantitative literacy, assessment, evaluation student outcomes, test, survey.


Colby-Sawyer College has adopted a mission for quantitative literacy (QL) to give students the “necessary skills to understand and use quantitative information in their personal and professional lives.” We have implemented an across-the-curriculum approach to develop these skills. As part of this QL program, we administer two assessment tests, one in basic mathematical skills and one that applies those skills, plus an attitude survey to both freshmen and seniors. Three years of data show that seniors score about 10 percentage points higher than freshmen on these tests. However, seniors still scored below 55 percent on both tests, and many cannot answer what we feel are questions that an informed citizen should be able to answer. As evaluation of progress in quantitative skills becomes more common, we suspect that similar results will be found at other colleges. We propose that this deficit in skills results from a lack of practice of the skills students learned before college or a reliance on calculators for simple calculation. If we want to improve the QL preparation of college students, we suggest that there needs to be more widespread evaluation of QL skills at the college level, an increase in QL teaching and learning in the college curriculum, and collaboration with educators at the pre-college level.



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