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Student Quantitative Literacy: Importance, Measurement, and Correlation with Economic Literacy

Peter W. Schuhmann, KimMarie McGoldrick and Robert T. Burrus
The American Economist
Vol. 49, No. 1 (Spring, 2005), pp. 49-65
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25604313
Page Count: 17
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Student Quantitative Literacy: Importance, Measurement, and Correlation with Economic Literacy
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Abstract

The importance of quantitative skills in learning economics cannot be overstated. Many previous studies have attempted to measure the degree to which such skills impact performance in economics classes. Typically these studies have relied on a proxy for measuring quantitative skills, such as the number and type of math courses a student has completed. Yet it is the proficiency in math rather than the exposure to it that is expected to impact the learning of economics and performance in economics courses. In this paper we use a pre and post course math quiz to address two major research questions. First, we examine the degree to which students who have greater math aptitude also have a better grasp of basic economics concepts prior to taking a principles of economics course. Second, we explore the degree to which this math aptitude is correlated with higher economic learning. Our results indicate that (prior to taking a principles of economics course) students do not fare well on simple quantitative questions and hence do not possess an adequate working knowledge of the "language" we often speak during our economics courses. Our analysis shows, however, that quantitative literacy is a very important determinant of economic literacy in both the pre and post course surveys. More specifically, we have shown that having skills such as being able to solve a system of equations and compute a percentage, and being able to interpret increases and decreases on a graph will lead to higher economic knowledge at the end of the semester.

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