Writing With Numbers

This workshop was led by John Bean (Seattle University), author of Writing Arguments: A Rhetoric with Readings (Longman, 2004). The purpose of the workshop was to help faculty prepare students to present arguments in writing that use data as evidence. We discussed how to design assignments that call upon students to employ empirical evidence in their writing and guide students on how to do so appropriately. Our discussions were informed by the findings of Carleton's Quant Squad, which has read a sample of student papers submitted to meet the College's writing portfolio requirement. All participants received a copy of Jane Miller's book The Chicago Guide to Writing about Numbers.

John Bean identified these specific goals for the workshop:

  • To share insights about what constitutes evidence in different disciplines with particular emphasis on quantitative data.
  • To share observations and analysis of problems students exhibit in incorporating quantitative data into papers.
  • To develop teaching strategies that increase student comfort with numbers and their confidence in analyzing and using numbers.
  • For one course, to develop a major writing assignment requiring students to gather, interpret, and use quantitative data in a disciplinary or civic paper.
  • To create one or more skill-building exercises or assignments that serve as scaffolding for the major paper.

Following the workshop, John Bean and Mary Savina wrote an on-line module on Quantitative Writing Assignments that captured the methodology discussed at the workshop. A collection of assignments in this module shows how Carleton faculty implemented what they learned at the workshop. The National Numeracy Network held a follow on workshop to develop a broader collection of examples.

This workshop was sponsored by Quirk and the Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) program at Carleton. The development of on-line resources was done in partnership with Pedagogy in Action,with funding by the National Science Foundaton.