Portrait of a Graduate: Quantitative, Technical, and Scientific Fluency

April 11, 2024 | Waterloo School


Just like our project-based curriculum, an education at Waterloo is designed to create something of lasting value: a young adult ready to engage and share their skills, ideas, and solutions with the world.

Our portrait of a graduate depicts the variety of skills we aim to impart to each of our students. It outlines our personal, productive, and academic goals.

We’ve already discussed some of our soft skills — those often-overlooked relational and emotional tools students need to succeed. But what about the hard skills — the ability to engage and navigate an increasingly technical world of science, technology, and progress?

Today, we’re talking about a part of our academic skills: quantitative, technical, and scientific fluency.*

Nate Fredricks delivers a word of encouragement regarding quantitative, scientific, and technical fluency at Waterloo’s 2023 commencement ceremonies.

Who needs technical fluency?

People often regard quantitative and scientific skills as only for those explicitly pursuing science or math. Really, they’re the ability to see the world as an opportunity and make reason-based choices.

We all do this on a daily basis as we think critically about the world around us. It is a necessary life skill as we steward what God has given us.

In our modern world, technological advancements will continue to take us far.

How Waterloo students learn technical fluency

Waterloo students develop these three skills by engaging in projects that push them to codify information and draw conclusions.

  • In engineering, they break down complicated problems. They identify the things they already know and things they need to know in order to find elegant solutions to complex problems.
  • In calculus, they wrestle with a type of mathematics that requires them to learn a new language to describe movement and change with incredible precision.
  • In statistics, they are required to think deeply about logic and reason in the context of math that undergirds real-world phenomena, probabilities, and population dynamics.
  • In molecular biology, they seek to understand the structure and function of life at its most fundamental levels.

Throughout their time at Waterloo, each and every student is challenged to build systems, to analyze, manipulate, and communicate about the world that surrounds them.

Bringing technical skills into the real world

Technical challenges do not end as our students leave our school for the “real world.”

While the context may not look like analyzing DNA or finding an integral, these opportunities are everywhere.

Our world deals in increasingly large sums of information, and it’s up to us to process that information and decide how to use it for good!

The world needs individuals who are willing not only to ask questions and identify problems but also to reflect on opportunities for real change and growth and commit to doing that challenging work with others.

When we do this, we remember the design process to empathize, define, ideate, and prototype.

In doing so, our students might use cost analysis to manage a restaurant or write impactful legislation for our communities, models, and social phenomena. They might also teach high school math, become engineers, or study molecular biology.

The impact of technical fluency

Technical skills might seem impersonal, but in the right hands, they can have a profoundly personal impact.

Quantitative, scientific, and technological fluency is integral to our ability to thrive and tell stories that truly reflect the people in them.

These skills are an avenue to experience deeper relationships, reflect on past experiences, and make tangible changes for the future.

Each of us has what it takes to succeed and achieve great things, but it is the way we use these gifts that matters most.

So whether you are a high school student, an engineer, an entrepreneur, an accountant, or an artist, we can all ask the question: how will we use what we know to make an eternal impact?

*Special thanks to Nate Fredricks, who delivered many of these ideas in his commencement address to the class of 2023!

Waterloo School

Waterloo School