New Chapter on Mathematical Literacy

I am quite happy to see that Shifting Contexts, Stable Core: Advancing Quantitative Literacy in Higher Education, a new volume from MAA Press edited by Luke Tunstall, Gizem Karaali, and Victor Piercey. The volume collects papers on mathematical literacy and addresses many ways we can improve it. From the description:

The theme we take up in this collection is Shifting Contexts, Stable Core, the idea being that while the construct of quantitative literacy has remained relatively stable over recent years, the application of this construct remains transient. For example, since the 2001 publication of Mathematics and Democracy, a number of new phenomena and technologies have flooded the realm of public consciousness, providing new contexts to practice quantitative literacy—a constant flux that can be at once both exhilarating and overwhelming for those involved in teaching and creating QL courses. Here we seek to capture and acknowledge such flux.

From a thematic standpoint, we have organized this collection around three motifs: Vision and (Re)visions, Curricula for Quantitative Literacy, and Quantitative Literacy in an Institutional Context. Vision and (Re)visions is meant to engage readers with a rich collection of reflection and analysis on the evolution and nature of QL from those who have been involved with the MAA and QL for several decades. In the next section, we include discussions of ways in which authors’ visions have manifested through a variety of curricular themes (including finance, the environment, and social justice, among other topics). Our third and final section of the volume, Quantitative Literacy in an Institutional Context, centers on institutional matters of program growth and assessment, among other things. The chapters of the volume illuminate how far the MAA’s QL community has come over the past decades, demonstrating that Steen’s 2004 Urgent Challenge for universities has not gone unanswered.

I am happy to see a chapter, “Quantitative Literacy to New Quantitative Literacies,” coauthored by Jeffrey Craig, Rohit Mehta, and myself, is included in this text. In this chapter, we discuss how mathematical literacy is becoming a broader requirement in today’s world. From our introduction:

Researchers and policy-makers have tried to illustrate the relationship between numeracy and literacy in various ways: from distinctly separate, with numeracy as the mirror image of literacy to quantitative literacy as one subset within a broad literacy conceptualization. When quantitative literacy or numeracy scholars conceptualize their work in reference to literacy, they invoke longstanding narratives about literacy that position their within public and scholarly discourse in particular ways. These longstanding narratives include that, historically, literacy has been a battleground for power and equity; an historical tracing of literacy likely leads to issues of power and oppression through time: from poor serfs fighting for literacy as a right after the invention of the printing press, through laws in the United States forbidding slaves from learning to read and write, to the work of Paulo Freire teaching literacy as a means for the oppressed to realize their exploitation and empower themselves. Steen claimed that “an innumerate citizen is as vulnerable as the illiterate peasant of Gutenberg’s time.”

As we see more and more every day, mathematical knowledge is necessary to just to handle the basics. If you’re a member of the MAA, you can download the book for free. Otherwise, look for it for sale, soon.