Brief History of the NNN

The National Numeracy Network got its start in 2000 under the leadership of Susan Ganter (at Clemson University) as the outreach component of the National Council on Education and the Disciplines (NCED). Robert Orrill had founded and directed the NCED to promote discussion about core literacies at the transition from secondary to postsecondary education. Quantitative literacy emerged as the primary focus.

The NNN organized a consortium of about 40 numeracy programs and, with NCED grants, established four QL Centers: Dartmouth College (Hanover, NH), Trinity College (Hartford, CT), University of Nevada (Reno, NV), and The Washington Center (Evergreen, WA). These centers were to provide technical support in

  • helping the consortium facilitate communication on educational practices in numeracy and in translating numeracy from aspiration to practice;

  • encouraging cross-sector interest and attention to numeracy among schools, colleges, civic groups, business and industry; and

  • supporting research, reports, and publications to increase the understanding and significance of numeracy.

Upon completion of the NCED project, the NNN was established formally as a membership organization. At a June 2004 meeting at Moose Mountain Lodge in NH, the first NNN board of directors spelled out the NNN's Vision and Mission, adopted its by-laws, and incorporated the NNN. In keeping with the goal of connecting numeracy with diverse disciplines, the NNN began by holding its annual meetings in conjunction with related organizations:

  • June 2005. With the MAA's Professional Enhancement Program (PREP) at Macalester College, St. Paul, MN.

  • August 2006. With the Joint Statistics Meetings in Seattle, WA.

  • April 2007. With the Midwest Sociology Meetings in Chicago, IL, in cooperation with the MAA's special interest group on QL.

  • May 2008. With the North East Consortium on Quantitative Literacy (NECQL) at Colby-Sawyer College in New London, NH, in cooperation with Carleton College's QuIRK initiative on quantitative writing and Colby-Sawyer's QL initiative.

  • May 2009. With a workshop: NSF Projects Supporting QL Education at the University of Washington, Bothell.

  • October 2010. With the QuIRK-Project Kaleidoscope workshop at Carleton College, Northfield, MN.

  • October 2011. With the Appalachian College Association's Annual Summit.

  • The October 2012 meeting in New York City (at Lehman College) was the NNN's first stand-alone conference.

  • November 2013. In San Diego in conjunction with an AACU/PKAL conference

  • October 2014. At Carleton College as part of an AALAC workshop

  • November 2015. In Seattle with an AACU conference

A few things of note happened during this period. One of the biggest is the establishment of the open-access Numeracy journal in 2008. The journal, which publishes two issues each year, and is hosted by the University of South Florida’s Library, “seeks to advance the NNN's vision of ‘a society in which all citizens possess the power and habit of mind to search out quantitative information, critique it, reflect upon it, and apply it in their public, personal and professional lives.’” Because of the hard work of the journal’s editors and the team “behind the scenes” at the University of South Florida’s Library, Numeracy earned a Gold Seal in 2018 from the Directory of Open Access Journals, for its high degree of openness and for adhering to best practices and high publishing standards. The journal gained even stature in 2021 when it was added to Scopus Journal Metrics; Scopus is the largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature. Their CiteScore is an open-access tool for documenting the scholarly impact of journals and their publications. Note: For more details on the NNN's history before 2008, as well as the beginnings of the journal, see Bernie Madison and Lynn Steen's article, “Evolution of Numeracy and the National Numeracy Network” in the premiere edition of Numeracy

An additional contribution of note in this period is that, between 2012 and 2014, NNN President, Eric Gaze (Bowdoin College), secured an NSF TUES Type I grant (Quantitative Literacy and Reasoning Assessment (QLRA)) to develop a quantitative literacy and reasoning assessment–the QLRA–that has been used at tens of institutions since the project began. Eric kindly allocated a portion of the grant’s funds to support NNN. More about the development of the instrument is available in a Numeracy article here.

Since 2015, the NNN has held stand-alone conferences at various institutions across the U.S.:

  • November 2017. Barnard College in New York City; being in such a large city, this was our most highly-attended conference to date

  • October 2018. Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan

  • October 2019. In conjunction with the Dana Center, this was held at Austin Community College in Austin

  • March 2021. Due to the pandemic, we did not hold a conference in 2020, and instead held our first virtual conference in March 2021

  • March 2022. Given the success of our first virtual conference and the continued impact of the pandemic, we again held this conference virtually

  • October 2022. The University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We switched back to in-person meetings, now with a hybrid option for remote attendees–something the organization intends to continue with each conference moving forward.

  • October 2023. Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut

In the summer of 2022, the Executive Team and Board held a strategic planning meeting at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, with the goal of charting out the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities. With courses in numeracy and quantitative literacy proliferating across the U.S. since the 2000s, and the pandemic changing the way organizations offer programming, the NNN is regrouping to determine what we can focus on next–outside, of course, of offering the premiere journal Numeracy and meeting annually to connect and share our work with one another. 

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