Finding Their NICHE: Digits and Data in Everyday Life

CUNY faculty from across several disciplines participate in a new Numeracy Infusion Course for Higher Education at Lehman College.

More than a dozen CUNY faculty members are participating in an innovative summer course on quantitative reasoning at Lehman. The course, “Numeracy Infusion Course for Higher Education (NICHE),”  is designed to help them better understand how to effectively teach their students numerical skills to solve real-world problems. Twenty professors from a wide range of disciplines—from African-American studies and mathematics to political science, and sociology—are enrolled in the online eight-week program.

“Now quantitative reasoning is becoming this really high priority in academia,” says Professor Esther Wilder (Sociology). “It’s so important for our students to address these skills so that they are better prepared for the world we live in.”

In 2011, Professor Wilder, Professor Dene Hurley (Economics), and LaGuardia Community College Mathematics Professor Frank Wang were awarded a three-year $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to launch the project, with the help of Professor Elin Waring (Sociology).

“Even before I applied for the grant almost three years ago, it was apparent that our students had such deficiencies in quantitative reasoning, which is the ability to use numbers and data in everyday life,” says Professor Wilder. “So many students in CUNY are math-phobic because they may have had bad experiences in high school.”

The group recruited faculty that could benefit from the course across multiple disciplines. Participants learned how to develop strategies to improve their students’ quantitative reasoning skills, which are recognized to be essential to their academic success and professional development.

Professor Wilder hopes that the pilot course could develop into a national faculty workshop and inspire other colleges and university programs to create similar courses.

“From my whole experience working with students, lectures are not an effective way of teaching students. If you actually go through the process, you have to teach with active learning. If you want to teach students, you engage them,” she says. “You can never stop learning; you can never stop your teaching.”