According to Lynn Steen, a leading national voice for issues of Quantitative Literacy and numeracy…
numeracy is not the same as mathematics, nor is it an alternative to mathematics. Today’s students need both mathematics and numeracy. Whereas mathematics asks students to rise above context, quantitative literacy is anchored in real data that reflect engagement with life’s diverse contexts and situations.” (Education Week, Wednesday, September 5, 2001, Volume 21, Number 1, p. 58]).
Further, the following description of of Quantitative Literacy comes from a web page of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation .
Quantitative literacy, also called numeracy, is the natural tool for comprehending information in the computer age. The expectation that ordinary citizens be quantitatively literate is primarily a phenomenon of the late twentieth century. In contrast to earlier times when quantitative thinking was reserved for scientific endeavors, numeracy is now essential for deep understanding of nearly all academic fields. Indeed, the ability to reason with numbers is an essential condition for substantive discourse in many domains–not least intellectual, economic, and political. In the twenty-first century, literacy and numeracy will become inseparable qualities of an educated person.
To this end, quantitative analysis courses at Wheaton have at least one of the following recurring themes: data analysis and statistical methods, formal symbolic systems, mathematical models and applications. A common theme among these categories is the recognition of patterns, generalization, abstraction to a formal system, and application of the system to specific situations. In all, an overarching goal is that students learn to understand, communicate, and interpret quantitative information and mathematical ideas.