Qualitative–Quantitative reasoning and lightweight numbers

Alan Dix

Professorial Fellow, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Wales, UK
Director of the Computational Foundry, Swansea University, Wales, UK

Seminar at University of Ulster, 21st February 2024.

As academics we need to deal with numbers including project management spreadsheets and student marks. In addition, they are part of day-to-day life whether household budgeting or working out how many socks to pack for a journey. Perhaps most crucially, many national and global issues require an understanding of numeric information from climate change to tax rates, and of course the Covid-19 pandemic. If citizens are not able to make sense of this, democracy fails.

Of course, many are not only uncertain when dealing with numbers, but suffer more or less extreme maths anxiety. Indeed a recent UK survey found that, “over a third of adults (35%) say that doing maths makes them feel anxious, while one in five are so fearful it even makes them feel physically sick”.

Sometimes detailed calculations are necessary, but often the critical skill is qualitative–quantitative reasoning, that is a qualitative understanding of quantitative phenomena. This can after be aided by the ability to use back-of-the-envelope calculations and dealing with lightweight numeric information. This talk discusses these issues and presents some prototype tools to explore the design space for personal numeric information.






Alan Dix 22/2/2024