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Quantitative Literacy and the Humanities

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Arithmetic and the Humanities: Questions

The answers to these questions rely on both mathematical and humanistic thinking.  As such, they may not have "correct" answers, although some answers will be more convincing and involve more rigor, rationality and reflection.

What is the best way to hold a class election: majority?  plurality? run-off election?  give weight to second choices?  vote by the entire class, or by subsections?

Is 1% growth a lot or a little?  Is 50% growth a lot or a little?  Should we pay more attention to 50% growth in one sector than 1% growth in another?  Is the fastest growing segment of the population the most important?

If a disease strikes 3,000 people in the U.S. each year, is that a lot of people?  Should we implement universal testing of that disease?  Should we require policies to prevent this disease?

The annual budget for the National Endowment for the Humanities is about $150 million.  Is that a lot?

If the ancient city of Rome distributed 1,000 bread rations per month, one to each household, what was the population of Rome?

Which kind of a field is more efficient to farm: a series of strips of land, or a square with the same area?  Why is it that farmers did not always use the most efficient field?

How might we reconcile rhetoric about the deaths of “women and children” with the fact that a higher percentage of the dead are very often men?

If the United States only received about 4% of the total number of enslaved Africans during the transatlantic slave trade, how do you account for the fact that it eventually had one of the largest slave populations in the Americas?

Given that we have found x% or y%, what new questions do you have?

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