Are YOU quantitatively literate?

The following questions are intended to reveal, in part, what quantitative literacy is. They are most informative if you not only answer the question but also think about what is behind the question in terms of real life experience. The first one, for example, has implications for international travel, and, as some visitors may recall, the doomed effort to convert the US from the English to the metric system.


  • Are you able to convert from MPH to KPH and back?
  • Can you balance your checkbook?
  • Can you translate numerical expressions into words and vice versa?
  • Can you reason using basic mathematical operations?
  • Can you make rough estimates of things in your head?
  • Can you extract meaning from charts and graphs such as those you see in newspapers and magaizines.?
  • Could you create charts and graphs?
  • Can you find the latitude and longitude of two points on a map and determine the best route between them?
  • Do you understand why two different medical studies of the same thing can arrive at different conclusions?
  • Can you discuss health risks with your doctor?
  • Can you figure out the relative risks of all the various kinds of mortgage plans available these days?
  • Does a television ad that says “companies that run [this database application] are 32% more profitable than those that don’t...” lead you to ask questions about what it does not say?
  • Can you see when the data presented do or do not support a claim that someone is making?
  • Could you make a persuasive argument before your local school board that defends the hypothesis that teachers need to be paid more? Could you make a case for how much more based on national data?
  • A recent article in Timemagazine interpreted a correlation coefficient as a percentage! Would you make the same mistake?
  • We have all heard that it is possible to lie with statistics. Can you tell which statistical claims are the lies, which ones are biased, and which ones are true?
  • Can you explain why sometimes survey data can be right and sometimes wrong?
  • Can you explain why the vote for president in Florida between Bush and Gore was a "statistical tie?"
  • How do you reason through the conflicting interpretations of the data on global warming? Have you tried to make sense of it all? If not, why not?
  • Do you know
  • the difference between a batting average and an on-base percentage?
  • how to convert a recipe for 20 people into one for 4 people?
  • what a GPA really is?
  • which of the four different ways is actually being used to calculate the interest on your credit card and what it means to your long term indebtedness?

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