Carleton Awarded U.S. Department of Education Grant to Strengthen Training in Quantitative Reasoning

September 17, 2004
By Sarah Maxwell

The U. S. Department of Education Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE) has awarded Carleton College $301,801 in support of a three-year project on education in quantitative reasoning.

This project is intended to help Carleton and other institutions of higher education better prepare students to evaluate and use quantitative evidence in their future roles as citizens, consumers, professionals, business people and government leaders. Over the next three years, faculty at Carleton will have the opportunity to develop seminars for first-year students and redesign existing courses to emphasize quantitative inquiry, knowledge, and reasoning. Faculty will evaluate how students present data in writing submitted to meet the College’s writing portfolio requirement and will use those assessments to inform further course revisions. Workshops and visiting distinguished speakers will support these curriculum development and writing assessment experiments, and the results of these educational innovations will be disseminated nationally.

Carleton’s President Robert A. Oden Jr. is a strong advocate of the College’s quantitative reasoning initiative. “One issue gaining increasing attention is a global need to prepare students with stronger quantitative reasoning skills. It is my expectation that Carleton’s project will result in important sustainable curricular revisions that improve the quality of education at the College and, more generally, in higher education,” he said.

Carleton’s proposal to the FIPSE program was prepared by a team of faculty and staff who met regularly over the past two years to consider the growing importance of data-based analysis in society and how Carleton might better prepare students to participate knowledgeably in such discussions. This group represented a wide range of disciplines at the College and included Scott Bierman, associate dean of the College and professor of economics; Sam Patterson, professor of mathematics; Mary Savina, theMcBride Professor of Geology and Environmental Studies and coordinator of the Perlman Learning and Teaching Center; Carol Rutz, director of the Carleton Writing Program; Jacqulyn Lauer-Glebov, assistant director of institutional research; Laura Chihara, associate professor of mathematics; Robert Dobrow, assistant professor of mathematics; Tricia Ferrett, professor of chemistry; David MacCallum, associate professor of philosophy; and Neil Lutsky, professor of psychology. Carleton’s Office ofCorporate and Foundations assisted this team, as did Cathryn Manduca, director of the Science Education Resource Center; Lynn Arthur Steen, professor of mathematics at St. Olaf College; Paula Lackie, academic computing coodinator for the social sciences and humanities; and other Carleton faculty.

Neil Lutsky, professor of psychology and project director for the FIPSE grant, said, “This was an entirely voluntary association of faculty and staff motivated fundamentally by a concern for the character of a contemporary liberal arts education. It’s marvelously gratifying that the Department of Education found the product of our collaboration worthy in the keen competition for FIPSE support.”

The Department of Education’s grant to Carleton represents 43 percent of the $700,000 total budget for the College’s quantitative reasoning initiative, which will continue through 2007.