Quantitative Writing

This material was originally developed as part of the Carleton College Teaching Activity Collection
through its collaboration with the SERC Pedagogic Service.

Author Profiles

Original module compiled by John C. Bean at Seattle University Enhanced by Steven A. Greenlaw with assistance from John C. Bean, Nathan Grawe, and Dean Peterson.

What is Quantitative Writing?

Quantitative writing (QW) is the written explanation of a quantitative analysis. A good quantitative writing assignment engages students with an open-ended, ambiguous, data-rich problem requiring the thinker to understand principles and concepts rather than simply applying formulae. Assignments ask students to produce a claim with supporting reasons and evidence rather than "the answer." Such "ill-structured problems" thus differ from writing assignments that lack a quantitative dimension as well as from "story problems" in math courses. Quantitative writing assignments can take a variety of forms, genres, and complexities.
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Why use Quantitative Writing?

Quantitative writing is a powerful tool for enhancing student learning. By emphasizing the exploration of ill-structured problems, QW teaches students the flexible, adaptive, analytical higher-order strategies necessary for the increasingly complex, data-rich environments of the 21st Century. Quantitative writing models and encourages domain transfer. QW assignments require students to analyze and use qualitative data in rhetorical contexts. They also promote the quantitative and writing skills need for 21st Century citizenship and careers.
learn why one would use quantitative writing

How to use Quantitative Writing?

There are numerous ways to use quantitative writing, but they all start with careful thinking about how QW contributes
to the course's learning goals. Designing effective QW assignments involves several steps:
  • Identifying & Prioritizing the goals of the assignment,
  • Choosing a topic and a type of QW assignment,
  • Deciding how much scaffolding to provide, and
  • Deciding on criteria for assessment. learn how to use quantitative writing

Quantitative Writing Examples

This site contains examples of QW assignments from a variety of disciplines, including economics, biology, geology, physics, political science, first year seminars, and more. See examples of quantitative writing

References on Quantitative Writing

References on Quantitative Writing are available via the link on the right.
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