UAB's Strategy

1. Begin with some basic definitions of QL.

As defined in the original QEP the quantitative part of QL includes "Discipline” QL which is “…students’ ability to solve realistic and authentic problems in their chosen fields of endeavor…” and “Life” QL which “…pertains to problems faced by people in their roles as citizens, parents and employees solving non-technical problems…”

The literacy part of QL is summarized in this slightly modfied passage from an article by Rose Asera of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching:

“As we ‘decode’ [numbers or] a text, we bring to bear a vast reservoir of [quantitative,] linguistic and cultural knowledge, connecting new ideas with old ones, figuring out words [and mathematical expressions] we may not know, actively questioning what we read as we read it, trying out and refining ideas and conclusions as we read.”

2. Based on our knowledge and assumptions, construct a basic premise.


  • is not a single discipline,
  • is not covered in a single course,
  • involves tasks of daily living infrequently addressed directly in university curriculum ("life" QL),
  • involves problems specific to the students' chosen area of study ("discipline QL"),


  • students ultimately need to draw on knowledge from different disciplines and to function effectively in a quantitative world,


  • to become quantitatively literate, students must learn a transferable, higher-order set of skills, i.e., problem-solving habits of mind.


3. Define the QL Core Competencies and their integral learning outcomes.

            These are defined in detail here.

4. Make QL visible by identifying QL Designated Courses which meet the following requirements:

The Instructor:

  • can map some (but not necessarily all) QL learning outcomes to course content
  • presents quantitative material in “real world” context
  • actively engages students in problem solving
  • uses "authentic" assessment methods, which challenge students to apply their knowledge to solve  real-world problems

Some of the courses that have been identified as meeting these requirements include:

  • UNIV 101 The University Experience
  • SPA 101 Introduction to Spanish I – Lecture
  • PSC 103 Introduction to International Relations
  • PSC 170 Women and World Politics
  • PSC 411 Introduction to Research Methods
  • PSC 403 Seminar in International Relations
  • NMT 441 Radiation Biology

Many mathematics and science courses that already include a core of quantitative material are obvious choices to become QL Designated Courses. The expectation is that, as the faculty review the QL Core Competencies and familiarize themselves with the detailed learning outcomes, they will focus more on cultivating the habits of mind that QL requires.

5. Design an assessment strategy.

Multiple measurements will be needed to meet the following assessment goals:


  • Assess students’ mastery of both “life” and “discipline” QL learning outcomes.
  • Identify the extent to which quantitative literacy increases between the time students enter UAB as freshman or transfer students and the time they graduate.
  • Provide feedback to undergraduate programs so they can target areas where students need to acquire greater master of QL learning outcomes.

These measurements will include:


  • ETS’s Measure of Academic Proficiency and Progress (MAPP). Click here for more information on the MAPP.
  • Course-embedded assessment to assess “discipline” QL and inform changes in how faculty approach quantitative material.
  • A locally-developed or locally-adapted test designed to assess “life” QL across university programs, and the extent to which students’ quantitative literacy improves as a result of their UAB education.


6. Make the UAB campus aware of QL and the QL Strategy.

QL has been featured in the UAB Reporter:

  • May, 2007:  The article “Quantitative literacy needed for life, academic discipline” cites a Parade magazinne Q&A on seat belt use and fatality risk as an example of the kinds of quantitative issues people encounter every day. 
  • August, 2007:  The article “Curriculum emphasizes quantitative literacy”* described how a wide range of courses – from mathematics to philosophy to foreign language – were being restructured to emphasize quantitative literacy, active learning, and application of quantitative methods to real-world problems.  (*In the headline “quantitative literacy” was mis-printed as “qualitative literacy”.)
  • May-June, 2008:  In brief essays, QL committee members described their personal experiences with QL in the classroom.  Members were UAB faculty Scott Arnold (Philosophy), Lisa Sharlach (Government), Norm Bolus (Nuclear Medicine), and Holly Brasher (Government).


QL Awareness Week was held in September, 2007.  Keynote speaker was John Allen Paulos, a professor of mathematics a Temple University, prolific author, and frequent commentator for ABC News. Other activities included workshops presented by faculty who participated in the QL course designation pilot program, and a presentation on mathematics teaching at the middle school level by the Greater Birmingham Mathematics Partnership.

UAB President Carol Z. Garrison highlighted QL in her 2008 Welcome Message entitled “Quantitative Literacy: Doing More than the Math”.

The 2008-2009 Discussion Book – Elizabeth Kolbert’s Field Notes from a Catastrophe:  Man, Nature and Climate Change – was the first of UAB’s annual discussion books to emphasize quantitative issues.  The discussion book website describes the book and its author, and includes links to many events, resources, and opportunities to learn more about this important contemporary issue.

QL Learning Outcomes

Spanish 101: An Example of a QL Designated Course

Using the PP to Assess QL at UAB

What we have learned so far

Campus Resources

Benefits and Policies