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Presenting data using_social_math

Social math tools
Published on: Mar 4, 2016
Published in: Data & Analytics

Transcripts - Presenting data using_social_math

• 1. Activity: Presenting Data Using Social Math Every day we are bombarded with news stories involving very large numbers or statistics that mean little to anyone but the researchers. We hear about billions of dollars for various programs and projects or we might learn that hundreds of thousands of people are at risk for a particular disease, or that a large percent of the population feel a certain way about a particular issue. We know the numbers are important, but more often than not we are numbed rather than informed because we simply don’t have a way of understanding the meaning of the number. Advocates must become skilled in translating large numbers so they become interesting for the journalist and meaningful to the audience. “Social math” is the practice of making large numbers comprehensible and compelling by placing them in a social context that provides meaning. A few ways to do this: • A number broken down by time: Given the amount over the course of one year, what does that look like per day, per hour, or per minute? For example, advocates could say: “The number of babies born to teen mothers (aged 15 to 19) in California peaked in 1991 at 70,322. By 1998, the California teen birth rate decreased to 53.2 per 1,000, down to 58,141 babies born to teen mothers that year.” It would be better to say: “Every 8 minutes a baby is born to a teen.” • A number broken down by place: Comparing a statistic with a well-known place can give people a sense of the statistic’s magnitude. For example, “If the 13.5 million poor children in America were gathered in one place, they would form a city bigger than New York.”i Or, “Because of limited funding, approximately 13.3 million eligible children went without federally supported childcare in 2000. That’s enough children to fill all 30 major league ballparks… Nearly ten times.”ii • A localized number: Make numbers meaningful to community members and policymakers in a specific region. Rather than using state or federal statistics, advocates can use local data. For example, using population figures, health reform advocates can calculate their county’s share of the annual costs of nationwide health issues. Breaking the numbers down by legislative district can help hold the legislator whose district is affected accountable. For example, “Experts estimate there are more than 100,000 obese children in the San Diego region. ‘It would take two Qualcomm Stadiums to hold all those children,’ said Jeffrey Schwimmer, an assistant professor of pediatrics at UCSD.”iii • A comparisons to familiar things: Compare and contrast numbers with something easily identifiable to the audience. For example, "A child consuming a can of regular caffeinated soda receives a caffeine equivalent of about four cups of coffee." iv Or, “A 20-ounce soda has 16 teaspoons of sugar. The average American consumes 45 gallons of sugary drinks a year. That’s 29 pounds of sugar – about as much as a 5-year-old child weighs!”v