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Making Social Work Count Lecture 1. An ESRC Curriculum Innovation and Researcher Development Initiative. Why Numbers Matter in Everyday Life. Learning outcomes. Numbers in everyday life – choosing a mobile. How did you know you were getting good value for money?

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making social work count lecture 1

Making Social Work Count Lecture 1

An ESRC Curriculum Innovation and Researcher Development Initiative

numbers in everyday life choosing a mobile
Numbers in everyday life – choosing a mobile
  • How did you know you were getting good value for money?
  • How did you make comparisons between deals?
quiz time
Quiz Time!
  • What gender are you:



quiz time1
Quiz Time!
  • What age are you:

Under 18yrs 26yrs – 29yrs

18yrs-21yrs 30yrs - 33yrs

22yrs-25yrs Over 34yrs

quiz time2
Quiz Time!
  • How did you travel to class today:

Walk Cycle

Bus Car – drive self

Train Car - lift

quiz time3
Quiz Time!
  • Which of these supermarkets did you last shop in:

Asda M&S Waitrose

Co-op SainsburysMorrisons

Lidl Tesco Aldi

quiz time4
Quiz Time!
  • What day of the week did you last shop in the supermarket:

Monday Thursday

Tuesday Friday

Wednesday Saturday


quiz time5
Quiz Time!
  • Which of these supermarkets do you have a loyalty card for:




who wins with supermarket loyalty cards
Who wins with supermarket loyalty cards?


  • 85% of the UK population have a supermarket loyalty card
  • A year after Tesco introduced the Clubcard, card holders were spending 28% more in Tesco and 16% less in Sainsbury’s (who then introduced their own loyalty card)
  • In 2009, 15 million Tesco customers received £259 million in vouchers
  • 80% of supermarket profits come from 20% of customers

Who wins with supermarket loyalty cards?


One supermarket was reported to have spotted a trend: fathers came into stores on their way home from work on a Friday, to buy nappies for their children.

As a result, the store placed six-packs of beer on the adjacent shelves, and found that the sales of beer went up.

additional viewing the joy of stats
Additional viewing: ‘The Joy of Stats’

key concepts
Key concepts
  • Number – a unit of measurement
  • Statistic – a numerical value or number
  • Quantification – the act of counting and measuring that maps observations and experiences into members of some set of numbers
  • Statistics – the study of the collection, organisation, analysis, interpretation, and presentation of numbers
relating numbers to other data
Relating numbers to other data

Where do millionaires live?

relating numbers to other data1
Relating numbers to other data

Have GCSEs rates changed?

relating numbers to other data2
Relating numbers to other data

Hate crime in England and Wales

social construction of statistics
Social Construction of Statistics
  • What is measured?
  • How?
  • For what purpose?
  • What happens next?
example crime data
Example – crime data
  • Definition of an act as a crime
    • by an individual
    • by society
  • Detection of that act
    • was it reported?
    • to whom?
  • Response to the act
    • warning v prosecution
    • legislation
  • Recording of the act
example educational outcomes and ethnicity
Example – educational outcomes and ethnicity

65% of pupils are of ‘ethnic minority’ background

In 2003, 70% had less than five higher grade GCSEs

learning outcomes1
Learning outcomes

Are you able to:

  • appreciate that numbers are a critical component of everyday life
  • understand how numbers can be created, represented and interpreted in social life
  • explore how quantification can help us understand a complex issue
  • understand basic statistical concepts
activity part a
Activity – Part A
  • Ask students to think about the most recent purchase they made (such as a new house, a car, a new mobile phone contract, a holiday, a laptop).
  • How did they make the choice?
  • What information did they seek out?
  • How did they make sense of different types of information (eg comparing mortgage deals, mobile phone contracts, holiday prices)?
  • How much easier/more difficult would the decision have been without numbers (eg choosing a phone contract without knowing the number of minutes or the price from different providers for the same phone; how much the rent or mortgage payment on a house would be each month)
activity part a cont inued
Activity - Part A continued
  • It may be useful to ask the students to discuss these questions with the person sitting beside them before having a whole class discussion. The points to draw out are:
  • numbers are a part of everyday life
  • we often need to be able to inform everyday decisions by making sense of numbers
  • this making sense often involves comparing numbers in quite sophisticated ways
  • if understanding and using numbers is part of what we do already, then how do we develop the confidence and competence to use numbers in our professional lives?
activity part b
Activity – Part B
  • Students should come to the session having read the newspaper article by Leo Benedictus. Ask them to discuss their thoughts about the content of the newspaper article – what are the key lessons we should take away from it:
  • statistics can be helpful to support an argument but only if used appropriately
  • there is a need to be able to understand that statistics are socially constructed, and that they may be accurate but used in ways that they were never intended to be
  • being a critical consumer of statistics will strengthen ones practice
  • Benedictus, L. (2013) Unreliable statistics of 2013. The Guardian 29th December. Available at:
  • PART (2012) Taking The Path Less Travelled: Critical Thinking For Child Welfare Practitioners. Practice and Research Together, Toronto.
  • Available at: