Lawrence University (LU), with an enrollment of 1350 students, is a selective undergraduate college of liberal arts and sciences with a conservatory of music. Following a 15-year hiatus, LU reviewed its general education requirements (GERs) and in 2000 adopted new multidimensional GERs. These include three components: competency requirements (in foreign language, quantitative reasoning, speaking, and writing), distribution requirements, and diversity requirements. The GERs went into effect in fall 2001 so the class of 2005 was the first to graduate under the new requirements. In this article, we discuss Lawrence's successes and challenges in implementing its new quantitative reasoning requirement. We also reflect on how an across-the-curriculum approach to fostering quantitative reasoning skills contributes to the development of quantitative literacy in college students.
Lawrence's quantitative requirement, called the “Mathematical Reasoning or Quantitative Analysis Requirement,” evolved out of discussions with faculty, students, and alumni, as well as transcript analysis and study of curricula at other schools. It reflects the belief that our college could and should do more to explicitly foster abilities, like critical thinking and quantitative reasoning, associated with a liberal arts education. Explicit identification of those aspects of the curriculum that develop quantitative reasoning skills does not reflect a lack of confidence in the liberal arts education, but rather provides an opportunity to define quantitative literacy goals in higher education and assess the college's success in meeting them.