The idea of social math is presenting complex issues in a way that can be easily understood by anyone: For example, a 2010 report by the National Retail Federation found that graduates were expected to receive nearly $90 in gifts – in all, spending on grad’s gifts were expected to reach $3.9 billion.The case described above doesn't just elaborate on the social math - making it simpler to see what billions of dollars represent - it makes a point about the value of our dollars. If we're willing to spend $3.9 billion dollars on stuffed animals in graduation garb, balloons, and alma mater mugs, would an extra dollar a week in taxes to advance research be a real burden on American finances? For the cost of a beanie baby or tassel a piece, could we mark an important genome? Treat cancer? Provide a healthier future for all those graduates?
Few of us can comprehend a billion dollars, unless you had boatloads of Microsoft stock back when it took off. Social math, then, insists we take another step: Find a way to translate. Knowing our audience here, that $3.9 billion could fund all but two institutes at the National Institutes of Health for a year – and in many cases, for several years. (Even the two exceptions, NCI and NIAID, would have a majority of their budgets covered by that amount.) The same $3.9 billion would fund 8,193 NIH research grants, according to FY10 numbers.
Social math is finding the common ground between a niche and the mainstream.
Priorities matter. What are ours?