Quantitative literacy, college algebra, online learning, alternative assessment, problem-based learning


This research stems from efforts to infuse quantitative literacy (QL) in an online version of college algebra. College algebra fulfills a QL requirement at many universities, and it is a terminal course for most who take it. In light of the course’s traditional content and teaching methods, students often leave with little gained in QL. An online platform provides a unique means of engaging students in quantitative discussions and research, yet little research exists on online courses in the context of QL. The course studied included weekly news discussions as well as “messy” projects requiring data analysis. Students in online and face-to-face sections of the course took the Quantitative Literacy and Reasoning Assessment ( QLRA; developed by members of the National Numeracy Network) during the first and final weeks of the fall 2014 semester. There were significant statistical gains in the online students’ QLRA performance and mathematical affect but none for the face-to-face students. Notwithstanding limitations of the study, the results support the notion that project-based learning in an online environment is a promising strategy for promoting QL in terminal math courses.



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