Plenary Speaker Profile (2011)
Bill Briggs
Professor Emeritus, Department of Mathematical & Statistical Sciences
University of Colorado Denver
Teaching A Quantitative Literacy Course

As individuals and as a society in the 21st century, we face critical challenges and choices. Understanding those issues and making informed decisions require fundamental quantitative skills that all college and university students should possess. In courses, careers, and life, students will face decisions about personal finance, voting issues, food, lotteries and gambling, risky behavior, and taxes. They ought to have the skills to understand the federal debt, the mathematics of pollution and deforestation, and health care issues. As teachers and students, we are all called to higher levels of quantitative literacy in order to be more effective citizens.

The grand challenge is to infuse quantitative literacy (QL) throughout the undergraduate curriculum. This talk will have a more modest theme: implementing a single QL course for liberal arts students. I will begin by briefly surveying the rationale for developing a quantitative literacy (QL) course and justifying such a course as a legitimate alternative to college algebra for liberal arts students. Most of the talk will consist of examples of activities, problems, and projects used in an existing QL course. Discussion is encouraged and can focus on the implementation of a QL course or on the grand challenge of QL across the curriculum.

Bill Briggs was on the mathematics faculty at the University of Colorado at Denver for 23 years, having previously taught at Clarkson University. He received his B.A in mathematics from the University of Colorado and his M.S. and Ph.D. in applied mathematics from Harvard. He taught throughout the undergraduate and graduate mathematics curriculum with a special interest in mathematical modeling and differential equations as it applies to problems in the biosciences. He has written or coauthored a quantitative reasoning textbook, Using and Understanding Mathematics; an introductory statistics book, Statistical Reasoning for Everyday Life; an undergraduate problem solving book, Ants, Bikes, and Clocks; two tutorial monographs, The Multigrid Tutorial and The DFT: An Owner's Manual for the Discrete Fourier Transform; and most recently a three-semester textbook Calculus. He is the past SIAM Vice-President for Education, a University of Colorado President's Teaching Scholar, a recipient of the Outstanding Teacher Award of the Rocky Mountain Section of the MAA, and the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship to Ireland. As a resident of Boulder, Colorado, he enjoys rock climbing, trail running, and cycling.