quantitative reasoning, writing, assessment


Using data from Carleton College, this study explores the connection between students’ completion of a range of quantitative courses and the quality of their quantitative reasoning in writing (QRW) as exhibited in courses throughout the undergraduate curriculum during the first two years of college. Because the assessment takes place in the context of a campus-wide initiative which has improved QRW on the whole, the study identifies course-taking patterns which predict stronger than average improvement. Results suggest QRW is not exceptionally improved by taking courses in statistics, principles of economics, or in the social sciences more broadly. QRW performance is, on the other hand, correlated strongly with having taken a first-year seminar specifically designed to teach QR thinking and communication. To a lesser degree, QRW is correlated with courses in the natural sciences and upper-level calculus. It is impossible to rule out all forms of selection bias explanations for these patterns. However, the broad pattern of correlations between QRW, courses, and standardized test scores argues for a causal interpretation.



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