•  
  •  
 

Keywords

quantitative literacy, numeracy, curriculum, higher education

Abstract

The aim of the Numeracy Centre at the University of Cape Town is to develop students’ quantitative literacy (QL) in a manner consistent with their programmes of study and intended roles in the community. Our theoretical perspective on the nature of QL is in line with that of the New Literacies Studies and sees academic QL as practices in different academic disciplinary contexts. This means that for us the ideal curriculum structure for developing QL would fully integrate it into the teaching of the disciplines. This is in practice not achievable in most cases, especially since many students do not have the necessary foundations of mathematical and statistical knowledge and skills. The unavoidable deviation from the ideal curriculum structure presents challenges to the design of QL interventions. Two illustrative examples which display different degrees of separation from the disciplinary teaching are described and discussed. This discussion is based on lecturers’ reflections on the teaching experience and on student evaluations. The ‘stand-alone’ QL course for Humanities and Law students, which uses a context-based approach, is the least integrated with the disciplinary curriculum, and presents challenges in terms of tensions in the classroom between the contexts and the mathematical and statistical content, as well as challenges in terms of student motivation. The QL intervention for medical students is more closely integrated into the medical curriculum and presents fewer challenges. Both interventions are intended to provide ‘foundations’ in terms of QL and suffer from difficulties in providing students with authentic motivation.

DOI

http://dx.doi.org/10.5038/1936-4660.5.1.3