Designing a Quantitative Reasoning Program: The QuIRK Experience

"Curricular talk tends to be dominated by disciplines....With no discipline naturally exercising leadership, there is neither an insistent nor a consistent call to make quantitative literacy a priority of education at the college level" 
— Lynn Arthur Steen, Achieving Quantitative Literacy

With advances in information technology, numerical data are available as never before. Students' abilities to deploy and understand quantitative arguments have not kept pace. Efforts to address this deficiency through quantitative reasoning (QR) programs have been slowed by the institutional challenges cited by Steen above. The QuIRK initiative has developed an innovative model of QR program development designed to surmount these barriers to curricular reform. Emphasizing the rhetorical elements of QR, QuIRK has placed itself within the context of Carleton's Writing Program. As a result, we are able to take advantage of the broad faculty involvement in and existing structural support for the Writing Program. To date, 27 faculty members in 15 departments have revised courses to enhance QR education. The pages in this section describe QuIRK's experience for those who would like to implement a similar program.

The Case for Integrating Quantitative Reasoning with Writing

QuIRK's novel approach to QR programming emphasizes students' use of numerical evidence in written argument. Here we explain how this programming decision reflects the several facets of QR as described in the literature. What is more, our rhetorical slant to QR programming has helped us to surmount institutional challenges, fostering rapid curricular change throughout the college.

Key Elements of QuIRK

QuIRK's program reflects a circular model of pedagogical reform. Assessment informs a professional development program which equips faculty to reform assignments and courses. Reforms are evaluated with further assessment, closing the loop.

QR Programs Elsewhere

Links to innovative QR programs and resources at other institutions.

Assessing Quantitative Reasoning in Student Writing

"[Quantitative Reasoning] is largely absent from our current systems of assessment and accountability." 
-National Council on Education and the Disciplines, Mathematics Association of America, and Mathematical Sciences Education Board Forum on Quantitative Literacy

QuIRK has developed an innovative tool for assessing quantitative reasoning in student writing. In addition to providing evidence for program evaluation, assessment results guide professional development efforts. The pages in this section describe QuIRK's assessment methodology for those interested in implementing a similar assessment program.

The Case for Assessing Quantitative Reasoning in Student Writing

What is quantitative reasoning and why does that suggest it is useful to assess student proficiency in papers rather than in standardized tests?

QuIRK Student Learning Goals

QuIRK's assessment rubric reflects these four student learning goals.

QuIRK's Assessment Rubric

The rubric used by QuIRK to assess quantitative reasoning in student papers at Carleton. 
The development, use, and reliability of the rubric is discussed in "A Rubric for Assessing Quantitative Reasoning in Written Arguments" by Nathan D. Grawe, Neil S. Lutsky, and Christopher J. Tassava

QuIRK's Assessment Protocol

A brief description of how QuIRK samples student papers for assessment and organizes annual assessment sessions.

Applying the Rubric Outside Carleton

Discussion of five feasibility studies which will soon test the usefulness of QuIRK's rubric in a wide variety of institutional contexts. Also includes discussion of how QuIRK's methods can be adapted to environments different from Carleton's.

Research Findings Based on Assessment Data

Reports on QR proficiency based on Carleton's QR assessment sessions

Interested in learning more?

If you would like to learn more about QuIRK's writing-based QR program or if you would like to visit Carleton for first-hand experience with our professional development or assessment workshops, contact Mija Van Der Wege (