In a recent Maths workshop we looked at another way in which maths appears in our every day lives. Our focus of the workshop was supply chains and logistics.

We began by talking about food miles, which according to the oxford dictionary is, “a measure of the distance travelled by foods between the place where they are produced, and the place they are eaten”(Food Miles, 2017). So already before the consumer receives their food, maths plays an essential job in calculating the distance and time taken for the food to reach the consumer.

After this discussion we were put into pairs to play a business simulation game, as a demonstration of how fundamental maths is used in the real world on a daily basis.

The Rules of The Game

• Each pair had to pick five items only, to spend their money on (It was up to the pair how much of their budget they spent on each item).
• These stages get repeated for each time period (April-June, July-August, October-December and January-March).

For each time period we had ten minutes to work out what products we wanted to buy, and how much of our budget we wanted to spend on each item. After each time period Richard revealed the percentage of the quantity sold of each item. From this percentage in our pairs we had to work out the amount of money we had made and the amount of leftover stock. Most leftover stock was able to be carried over to the next time period apart from milk and bread which would go out of date.

After each time period we also had to work out how much money we had spent, by adding the prices of what we had bought together, then subtracting the total away from the 5,000 euros we originally started with, or our new budget we had at the beginning of the time period, this left us with our new sum of money we were allowed to spend on our next 5 products.

Tactics

April-May

My partner and I began by spending most of our budget on crisps and beans, as both of these products were not only able to be carried on to future time periods (as they have a long shelf life), but also stable products which consumers buy all year round (because who doesn’t love some beans on toast).  We were pretty happy with our decisions as after the first time period we had turned our 5,000 euro starting point into14,540 euros.

July-September

During this time period after looking at how much each product gets sold for (and looking at our neighbours), we discovered that buying champagne would give us a much higher profit than other items, meaning a large proportion of our budget was spent on champagne.

October-December

On the third time period our budget started at 18,380 euros (shout out to the consumers who bought champagne over Summer). Feeling extremely confident that champagne was going to do well again, especially as this time period was over Christmas. We thought tactically and spent all of our budget on seasonal goods (turkey, champagne and beer etc). We were then left with a whopping 35,920 euros, to spend on the last time period.

January-March

Okay so this was it the final round. This was the moment we discovered beans were selling at 10 times the price we were buying them for, making us a 1.25 euro profit per pack of beans. After discovering this we went a bit mad and decided to buy 5,000 euros worth of beans and the rest of our budget on crisps, milk and bread. We were very proud to have come fourth place ending with a large sum of 98,194 euros, however the competitive side of me wanted to know where we had gone wrong.

After the Game

After asking the winners their tactics and reviewing our own work we came to the conclusion that we should have JUST BOUGHT BEANS. If I could give someone advice for doing this in the future it would be to look at what products make the highest profit. Basically try spend as little money as possible on products that will give a high profit. For example from the first round beans were giving us 8 times the amount of money we were buying them for.

I would also recommend to consider the products that go out of date, as on  a number of occasions Rebecca and I lost some of our money by not all the products selling and us not being able to carry them on to future months.

The one thing we did do well was considered the time of year, as we spent most of our money on turkey and champagne during Christmas months which products had 100% selling quantity.

In the future this will be a great example to show my pupils or demonstrate to others how the fundamentals of maths are used in every day life even when we don’t know it. Also If I  ever own a shop I now know what to sell….. BEANS.

Food Miles. (2017). In: Oxford Disctionary, 1st ed. Oxford University Press.