From Fear & Loathing to Appreciation & Empowerment: Building Quantitative Literacy among Social Justice Oriented Students

Chris Bettinger & Alexis Martinez (San Francisco State University)


Drawing on our combined experience of teaching applied quantitative analysis to undergraduate Sociology majors at San Francisco State University, we propose a 30 minute webinar to share our pedagogical strategies that aim to build quantitative literacy and decrease math anxiety among a predominately first generation college student population who have selected a field they understand as non-quantitative. Our webinar will highlight an assignment we consistently use to provide students with a high impact learning experience - analyzing and presenting publicly available data that explores a sociological research topic and related questions. Assignments in this vein build students' analytic skills and their ability to communicate their analyses elegantly in written and oral form. This includes reading statistical tables, summarizing descriptive statistics, and making inferences about a population based on a sample. Examples of publicly available data we use include U.S. Census datasets, the General Social Survey, and the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. We will discuss challenges experienced by students as they navigate datasets and statistical software such as R and SPSS. Overall, we aim to maximize our students' post-graduation career possibilities in an increasingly evidence-based society.