Algebra: the maths working to solve the UK’s supply chain crisis
The calculations behind filling supermarket shelves are dizzyingly complex – but it all starts with the x and y you know from school
Nando’s put it succinctly on its Twitter feed last month: “The UK supply chain is having a bit of a mare right now.” Getting things on to supermarket shelves, through your letterbox or into a restaurant kitchen has certainly become problematic of late. It’s hard to know exactly where to pin the blame, though Covid and Brexit have surely played a part. What we can do is give thanks for algebra, because things would be so much worse without it.
It’s likely that you have mixed feelings about algebra. Even if you could knuckle down and manage it in school, you probably wondered why it was important to solve an equation involving x raised to the power of 2 or why you should want to find a and b when a + b = 3 and 2a – b = 12. You might even feel that your scepticism has been vindicated: the chances are that you have never done algebra in your post-school life. But that doesn’t mean that the jumble of letters, numbers and missing things that we call algebra is useless. Whether it’s supermarket groceries, a new TV or a parcel from Aunt Emily, they all reach your home through some attempt to solve an equation and find the missing number. Algebra is the maths that delivers.