The following examples are provided to illustrate the variety of study questions one can devise around a single newspaper article. Because of copyright issues, none of the articles can be reproduced in their entirety on this website. However, ample excerpts are provided in order to clarify the quantitative concepts under consideration. One should consider these examples not necessarily as student activities that can be quickly brought into class, but rather as models for instructors to create their own case studies of current, relevant, and thought provoking news articles.
How Big is a Trillion?
There is no shortage of examples of newspaper articles which use extremely large numbers. This example illustrates ways to make sense of these large quantities.
Calculating and Comparing Tax Rates
Letters to the Editor illustrate a multitude of ways of describing income tax rates. Which are correct? Who can do the math?
Cost Effectiveness of Increased Fuel Efficiency
Should one spend some extra money to increase the fuel efficiency of their automobile? When will high efficiency vehicles pay for themselves?
Credit Card Analysis
How long will it take to pay off that new flat screen television you just had
A Short Selection of Advertisements
Even short one page or one sentence advertisements can make for great discussions.
Case Studies for Quantitative Reasoning: A Casebook of Media Articles (second edition)
Authors: Bernard L. Madison, Stuart Boersma, Caren L. Diefenderfer, Shannon W. Dingman
Pearson Custom Publishing
Supporting Website: Quantitative Reasoning in the Contemporary World
[This web page cannot be found]
This book provides complete copy of newspaper articles (with supporting graphics) together with study questions for students to examine such topics as Percent and Percent Change, Measurement and Indices, Linear and Exponential Growth, Graphical Interpretation, as well as Counting, probability, Odds, and Risk. This book may be used as a stand-alone textbook or as a source for supplementary material for a college level quantitative reasoning course.
The supporting website also allows visitors to read, post, and exchange information about current articles which could enhance a QR course.
The Visual Display of Quantitative Information is a great resource for those looking to bring in some extremely well-produced graphical displays of numeric information. This book may be used to identify features of an effective graph which will help when analyzing graphics which appear in local and national newspapers.
Joel Best (2008) "Birds–Dead and Deadly: Why Numeracy Needs to Address Social Construction," Numeracy: Vol. 1 : Iss. 1, Article 6.
Available at: Numeracy 1 (1). Offers the reader an introduction to the notions of "socially constructed numbers" and provides two excellent examples culled from the media.
The CHANCE project provides some excellent resources on using current events in the statistics classroom. In particular, the "Chance News" feature alerts visitors to interesting items in the news which would make for great case studies.
The U.S. Census Bureau is a valuable resource when trying to find additional information about populations, housing estimates, income distributions, and much more. As this site can sometimes be hard to navigate, instructors may wish to spend some time before their class starts familiarizing themselves with the information it contains. Also, many state government websites offer similar information presented on county and city levels.
Wolfram Alpha is a new website which offers, among more mathematically advanced calculations, some interesting numerical displays and interpretations. Operating like a mathematical search engine, it has access to some interesting databases. For example the term "population united states/mexico" is interpreted mathematically as the ratio of the populations of the U.S. and mexico. A value and a graph which displays this ratio over the last 30 years is returned. The term "bmi" returns a numerical and graphical description of the body-mass index for the United States. The term 'federal budget' returns, among other items, a log-scaled plot of about 60 years of data on the U.S. budget.
Research and Pedagogy
Numeracy (more info) is an open-access peer-reviewed journal which publishes articles, editorials, and perspectives on quantitative literacy across all disciplines. Past issues include articles on assessment strategies, curriculum design, classroom activities, as well as book reviews.
The National Numeracy Network (NNN) is an interdisciplinary network of individuals, institutions, and corporations united by the common goal of quantitative literacy for all citizens. The NNN holds annual meetings to discuss and promote the continuing improvement of quantitative literacy education.
SIGMAA-QL is a special interest group of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) dedicated to the improvement of quantitative literacy in higher education. It's members host many paper/poster sessions and panel discussions at the national meetings of the MAA.
The Cooperative Learning Center at the University of Minnesota (more info) provides visitors with resources to support cooperative learning initiatives in their classrooms. Teaching with the News can make very effective use of cooperative learning.
Peer-Led Team Learning illustrates how to incorporate formal peer-to-peer instruction into the classroom. News-based courses are very amenable to group work, cooperative learning strategies, and peer-to-peer instruction techniques.
Since many of the quantitative skills encountered in a news-based course are relatively elementary, students come to class with many pre-formed ideas. Instructors need to be aware of what these preconceptions are and how they may affect one's learning or understanding. A few sources which describe the recent cognitive research on how students construct knowledge as well as pedagogical approaches one may use in the classroom to address this issues are found below:
Student Research offers some advice on incorporating student research in the classroom. Many news articles can be used as the basis for longer research projects in which students follow up on sources and collect their own facts.
Quantitative Writing provides some excellent advice on getting students to write about numbers.