Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is Quantitative Literacy?
2. Why did the Faculty establish a Quantitative Reasoning Program?
3. Why would a student at Bowdoin need to improve his or her Quantitative Reasoning?
4. What is the Quantitative Reasoning Test?
5. Does every student at Bowdoin take a quantitative course?
6. What support is available to students in quantitative courses?
7. How can I contact the Quantitative Reasoning Program office?

What is Quantitative Literacy?


According to The Mathematical Association of America, "A quantitatively literate college graduate should be able to:

  • Interpret mathematical models such as formulas, graphs, tables, and schematics, and draw inferences from them.
  • Represent mathematical information symbolically, visually, numerically, and verbally. Use arithmetical, algebraic, geometric and statistical methods to solve problems.
  • Estimate and check answers to mathematical problems in order to determine reasonableness, identify alternatives, and select optimal results.
  • Recognize that mathematical and statistical methods have limits."

The MAA guidelines further explain quantitative literacy expectations of college students: "The level of sophistication and maturity of thinking expected of a college student should extend to a capability for quantitive reasoning which is commensurate with the college experience. College students should be expected to go beyond routine problem solving to handle problem situations of greater complexity and diversity, and to connect ideas and procedures more readily with other topics both within and outside mathematics."

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Why Did Faculty Start a Quantitative Reasoning Program?

Recognizing the importance of the skills listed above, the Faculty designed the QR program both to assist with the integration of quantitative reasoning throughout the curriculum and to assist students in their pursuit of these skills.

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Why would a Student at Bowdoin want to Improve his or Her Quantitative Reasoning?

Bowdoin is a highly selective college and all admitted students are believed to have the potential to acquire strong quantitative reasoning. However, the unevenness of American secondary education and the diversity of student backgrounds result in varying entry level skills. Even students with very strong high school mathematics backgrounds sometimes need to be convinced "not to turn off their brains" but to intellectually engage with quantitative material. To become quanitatively literate citizens, students need to develop confidence in their logical reasoning skills. Quantitative literacy empowers people by providing tools to think independently, ask intelligent questions, and reach valid conclusions.

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What is a Quantitative Reasoning Test?

The Quantitative Reasoning Test is an assessment test given to all incoming students during Orientation. On the test, students demonstrate their current proficiency in four areas: Computation and Estimation, Probability and Statistics, Graphical Analysis and Common Functions, and Logic/Reasoning. The Quantitative Reasoning Program Director analyzes the test results and shares them with academic advisors. Students are subsequently informed of their results, which then are added to the students' incoming portfolio of high school performance to form a basis for discussion and advising regarding possible future quantitative course selections.

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Does every Student at Bowdoin take a Quantitative Course?

Students who entered Bowdoin up to and including the Fall of 2005 (through the Class of 2009), usually take at least one quantitative course in the process of fulfilling the distribution requirement of taking two courses from the Natural Sciences and Mathematics. In addition, there are several quantitative courses in the Social Sciences that students often select as a means of improving their quantitative abilities.

Beginning with students enrolling in Fall '06 (Class of 2010), the distribution requirement has been updated to require one course in mathematical, computational, or statistical reasoning and one course of inquiry in the natural sciences.

Quantitative literacy involves connecting mathematics to authentic contexts. By applying quantitative thinking and techniques to an area of interest, a student should increase his/her skill and confidence. For each of the distribution requirements described above, the Quantitative Reasoning Program helps students identify courses whose content is designed to use math in context and which are of interest to the student. The students in these quantitative courses are encouraged to utilize the study groups, workshops, and/or other supplemental support provided.

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What support is available to students in quantitative courses?

The Quantitative Reasoning Program works with the faculty responsible for various quantitative courses (Q-Courses). In many cases, a QR tutor is assigned to the Q-course. The tutor leads weekly study group sessions and exam review sessions. S/He also provides studying strategies and may occasionally do some individual tutoring. For some Q-courses, workshop sessions on quantitative techniques are available preceding their use in the class. A schedule of courses, tutors and support is published by the third week of each semester. Students may also make specific requests for assistance directly to the Quantitative Reasoning Program Director. The responses to such requests will depend upon the particular circumstances, but could include the formation of a new study group, the addition of a workshop and/or the assignment of an individual tutor.

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How can I contact the Quantitative Reasoning Program Office?

The QR Program office is located in The Center for Learning and Teaching, Kanbar Hall, Room 102.

  • stop by The Center for Learning and Teaching, Kanbar Hall, Room 102
  • call (207) 725-3006

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