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Quantitative Literacy and the Humanities

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Actions are the assessable capabilities of quantitatively literate students.  The AAC&U’s Quantitative Literacy VALUE Rubric provides benchmarks for the following actions:

  • Interpretation
  • Representation
  • Calculation
  • Application/Analysis
  • Assumptions
  • Communication

It is through the Actions that students perform that we can assess their understanding of the Concepts.

The assessment of these Actions will change according to the students’ level of mathematical skill; for example, a student might have mastered the communication of descriptive data in graph form without having mastered the communication of probability.


Ability to explain information presented in mathematical forms (e.g., equations, graphs, diagrams, tables, words).  Quantitatively literate individuals possess “symbol sense”: they can interpret mathematical symbols grammatically.

For example, when presented with the following graph,

students can interpret that the French population rose from about 30 million in 1801 to about 60 million in 2001, and that it rose more quickly after the Second World War.


Ability to convert relevant information into various mathematical forms (e.g., equations, graphs, diagrams, tables, words).  Quantitatively literate individuals can assign variables to a quantity.  They use the proper units of measurement.  They can figure out when it is appropriate to add or subtract, divide or multiply.


Ability to calculate successfully and elegantly.


Ability to make judgments and draw appropriate conclusions based on the quantitative analysis of data, while recognizing the limits of this analysis.  Quantitatively literate individuals check hypotheses against the data, and in doing so they avoid common pitfalls in analysis.  They make decisions that integrate quantitative analysis with their values, experiences and judgment.  They furthermore articulate new questions—both quantitative and qualitative—that arise from quantitative analysis.


Ability to make and evaluate important assumptions in estimation, modeling, and data analysis.  Quantitatively literate individuals recognize that they operate under certain assumptions about the data or about the system.  They articulate the role of uncertainty, the effects of incomplete information and the possibility of alternative explanations.


Ability to express quantitative evidence in support of the argument or purpose of the work (in terms of what evidence is used and how it is formatted, presented, and contextualized).  Quantitatively literate individuals use oral, written and visual communication effectively.  They can deploy their arguments using digital technologies.  They effectively use QL to tell a story, make an argument, and affect an audience.

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