2012-13 Catalog

Decorative graphic

Offering Description

Elections, Education, Empowerment: Social Change Through Quantitative Literacy


Fall 2012 and Winter 2013 quarters

Brian Walter mathematics, computer science, improvisational theater , Susan Fiksdal (F) linguistics and languages , Sara Sunshine Campbell
Fields of Study
American studies, communications, education, linguistics, mathematics, media studies, political science, sociology and sustainability studies
Preparatory for studies or careers in
mathematics, statistics, social work, education, writing, public relations, linguistics, history, government, media studies, and journalism.

What can a poll tell us about the outcome of an election? Do test scores really indicate whether a public school is "good"? What do gas prices have to do with social equity? Why are food labels a social justice issue?

Quantitative literacy is a powerful tool that allows one not only to understand complex real-world phenomena but also to effect change. Educator and social justice advocate Eric Gutstein says that reading the world with mathematics means "to use mathematics to understand relations of power, resource inequities, and disparate opportunities between different social groups and to understand explicit discrimination based on race, class, gender, language, and other differences."

In this program, we will "read the world with mathematics" as we consider issues of social justice, focusing particularly on how quantitative as well as qualitative approaches can deepen our understanding. The program work will develop students' knowledge of mathematics and examine issues of inequity using quantitative tools. In addition, students will work on persuasive writing and develop a historical understanding of current social structures. Our goal for our students is to expand their sense of social agency, their capacity to understand issues related to equity, and their ability to take action and work toward social change.

In fall, we will study presidential and congressional national elections in the United States. We'll look at quantitative approaches to polling and the electoral process, including study of the electoral college system, and qualitative approaches to campaign advertising and political speeches. We'll examine the changing role of media, such as radio, television, the Internet and social media, by studying past presidential campaigns and how they've impacted today's campaigns. This work will include workshops in statistics and other quantitative approaches; workshops in discourse analysis of ads, blogs and social media websites; writing workshops; lectures; films and other media; book seminars; synthesis seminars; and a final project including quantitative and qualitative analysis of some aspect of the 2012 national elections.

In winter quarter, we will investigate common experiences students have with mathematical work by studying the U.S. education system and mathematics education in particular. Civil rights activist Bob Moses has said that mathematics education in our public schools is a civil rights issue. Economic access depends on mathematical literacy, yet many students are marginalized by the middle-class curriculum and teaching practices of our public schools. Our exploration of this issue will inform our learning as we develop our own mathematical literacy.

There are no mathematics requirements for this program. It is designed specifically to accommodate students who are uncertain of their mathematical skills, or who have had negative experiences with mathematics in the past. It is an introduction to college-level mathematics in the areas of statistics, probability, discrete mathematics, geometry and algebra. The program will also provide opportunities for students who wish to advance their mathematical understanding beyond the introductory level in these areas.

Online Learning
Enhanced Online Learning
Greener Store
Required Fees
$50 in winter quarter for program retreats.
Offered During

Program Revisions

Date Revision
February 1st, 2013 This program is ending after winter quarter. Brian Walter and Sunshine Campbell will be offering Algebra to Algorithms and Sunshine Campbell will be offering Mathematics for Elementary and Middle School Teachers. Students are encouraged to read their descriptions in the catalog.
December 11th, 2012 Faculty no longer require students to meet with the faculty prior to registration winter quarter.
May 30th, 2012 This program is now offered to students of all class levels (Freshmen to Seniors)
April 23rd, 2012 "Preparatory for" field updated.
April 17th, 2012 This program is now lower-division, offered to freshmen and sophomores.