AIG seeks another $150 billion in government bailout funds. The budget deficit mounts to more than a trillion dollars. The economy rises to the nation’s number one security threat. Statistics and studies correlate human activity and global warming. These are just some of the headlines confronting Americans. Never has there been a more appropriate moment to consider the importance of quantitative literacy: the ability to interpret and reason with numerical information and mathematical ideas.
As colleges and universities nationwide consider how to prepare the next generation of leaders for the growing demands of the 21st century, the need for quantitative literacy (QL) has become an obvious and urgent concern. Bard College at Simon’s Rock is among a number of institutions answering the call.
For years, Simon’s Rock has offered classes that spoke directly to building quantitative literacy skills. Among them, "Mathematics and Its Applications," "Skepticism and the Scientific Method," and "Data Analysis: Methods, Application, Examples." Now, through the Win Commons, the College has hired a full-time director of quantitative literacy, Jan Rizzuti. Having arrived on campus in January, Rizzuti comes to the Early College with years of experience teaching, supporting, and advocating the importance of quantitative literacy—most recently working at Bard College as their director of quantitative literacy and Bard High School Early College as the coordinator of the math tutoring center.
"Times have changed; technology has changed; and yet often the math we teach or the way we teach it remains the same," Rizzuti explained. "High school and college math courses need to reflect these changes," she said.
To help students achieve a greater numerical literacy, Rizzuti will host QL events, like a recent lecture she gave titled, "Just How Big is 13 Trillion Dollars?" She’ll plan to teach courses in QL and encourage an overall greater emphasis on math and science quantitative literacy. Day-to-day, Rizzuti will work with students struggling with math by providing a full range of tutoring and individual support. "I’m not trying to convince students to become a math major, unless they want to be. What I try to do is help students who are not math majors relieve math anxiety and provide pathways for them to engage with math in a way that is interesting and relevant."
There’s no escaping the reality that in order to be a truly educated citizen and consumer it is not enough to be literate, now students must be quantitatively literate. "Whether you’re a poet, a sociologist, or a musician," Rizzuti said, it will not matter. "Everyone will need to have some quantitative literacy."