Project Archive: Mathematics for the People: Quantitative Literacy for Social Justice

This is a snapshot of project information archived on 2 September 2022. Please contact the project team for most recent updates.

Mathematics for the People: Quantitative Literacy for Social Justice

Subject: Mathematics

Book Language: English

Audience: Non-STEM post-secondary students taking a quantitative literacy course

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Created date: June 2, 2020

Updated date: March 20, 2022

Target Release Date: 2021-08-01


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Math for the People is a new approach to teaching Quantitative Literacy to students outside of traditional STEM fields. By leading with social justice topics, Math for the People seeks to introduce students first to the problems we want to solve, and then introduce the mathematics we can use to understand them.

The textbook is intended for a college freshman level course in quantitative literacy at a two or four-year postsecondary institution. This course would fulfill a terminal mathematics requirement for students whose degree programs do not require any further mathematics.

The text will be structured in stand-alone modules, each related to a single social justice topic. Each module will begin with an overview of the topic, historical context, and a discussion of current questions and concerns related to the topic. This section may include particular case studies related to the topic, articles discussing the topic, and other resources. This section will followed by discussion prompts for faculty to use in helping students explore the issue.

The mathematical content will follow. Each topic will be paired with 2-4 mathematical topics which will help the reader to ask questions and build understanding about the social justice topic being discussed. These mathematical topic sections will stand alone, and may be repeated in multiple places throughout the text (for example, a section on exponential growth may be included in the module on climate change as well as the module on predatory lending).

Short Description:

Mathematics for the People is a new approach to teaching quantitative literacy which centers social justice concepts, and then introduces the mathematics topics necessary to build understanding of those topics. The text seeks to provide students with the quantitative skills that they need to understand & change their world.


Payday Loans

Looks at the social impact of payday loans, high-interest loans offered to those with little to no credit. Mathematical topics include interest rates and APR, probability and risk, and the correlation between such lenders and majority-minority neighborhoods.

Interest Rates and APR

Probability, Risk, and Credit Scores

Correlation and the Location of Payday Lenders

Climate Change

Looks at the social impact of climate change. Mathematics topics include the geometry of sea-level rise, probability and flood risk, and data analysis and visualization.

Geometry of Sea Level Rise

Probability and Flooding Risk

Analyzing Climate Data

Sweatshop Labor

How does the amount you pay for items like clothing relate to what the workers who make it are paid? What percentage goes to materials, transportation, and other parts of the process? This module will focus on percentages, data analysis and visualization, and estimating and making assumptions.

Estimating and Making Assumptions

Using Percentages to Analyze Products

Data Analysis and Visualization