Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Girl Scout Cookie Booth Math: Equal It Out and Assign It Fairly

Okay, you guys. This is why you studied algebra. You studied algebra when you were 13 because one day you'd be a Girl Scout troop leader, and your Girl Scouts would go mad for cookie sales, and you'd have to schedule nine girls into 40+ hours of booths every week, and then you'd have to figure out how to divide the booth sales fairly between everyone who worked, for all the various hours they worked, and you'd also have to make sure that your booth sales matched your booth inventory every time, and that your physical inventory matched what your database says you have.

And don't forget that you'd have to figure out how many of each type of cookie to even bring to every booth in the first place!

Functionally literate in math. That's what algebra gives you.

The most important thing is that whatever method you use, you MUST WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN. An accurate paper trail is key. Count your inventory. If it's off, note it. Count your money. If it's off, note it. Know exactly how many boxes of each variety of cookie you're taking to each booth. Know exactly how much starting cash you're taking. Know exactly what girls and what adults worked there, and exactly how long they worked. Know what you took in via credit cards. Know what you took in via cash.

The key to doing all that easily and efficiently is using a booth form. Some councils make their own, and you can find them if you Google, but if you know exactly what information you want on your form, and your partner is a graphic designer (yay!), then you can make your own. Here's mine:



At the top of the form you fill in the booth location, time, and date. We do so many booths that we might be back and forth between the same location twice in one day, or three times in a weekend.

Below that is space to write in all the girls and adults who worked, and the hours that they worked. We sometimes have booths that are six to eight hours long in a single spot, and have to be able to record girls coming and going all day for various hours, or even taking a break and coming back later. You also need to know all the adults who were present, if for no other reason than you know who to loop into the mass text if the numbers come out wrong.

Next come a series of boxes that are specific to what our troop needs. The first box is to record the amount of money in the Operation: Cookie Drop donation can. The second box holds tally marks that must be made every time someone runs an Operation: Cookie Drop donation on credit card, because our credit card processing company doesn't let you look at transaction details easily--if someone thinks that they might have forgotten an Operation: Cookie Drop credit card transaction, or if the final amount is off, I have to manually click through every single transaction to see its details, and it. Is. TEDIOUS.

The third box records the amount in our troop donation can, although this is not incorporated into any other calculations. Early in the season, the girls were trying to collect enough donations to buy a box of Girl Scout cookies for every kid in our local Backpack Buddies program, and so we'd often use the box to record that, instead. If we do local donations again next year, I will likely include yet another box just for that.

The next couple of boxes are so that adults whose phones were used to run the credit card processing app can record their transaction totals. Adults come and go, too, so you need more than one box for this.

The final two boxes record the amount of starting cash and ending cash. Our cookies are all $5, so we start with $200.

I devote a lot of space simply to the cookie inventory. Using a lot of space to keep the numbers separate helps avoid confusion, and the color coding and illustrations are visual reminders to help keep everything correctly sorted by type. The bigger spacing lets the kids, who often can't write tiny, also do inventory, and it leaves some room for calculations.

Notice that unlike a lot of booth tally sheets, mine doesn't include a place to record parents who take cookies from the booth supply to add to their daughter's personal orders. I HIGHLY discourage doing this at cookie booths, because it's not the time and place and it's distracting, but in case of emergency I'll do it and just subtract what they take from the starting inventory of that booth. Another reason for all that space between the inventory number boxes!

Below the inventory section is where you walk through the two main booth calculations: the calculation of inventory, and the calculation of money. The first line is inventory, so you copy down what you sold of each type of cookie, then what you sold of Operation: Cookie Drop (include what you sold from both the donation can and by credit card). Add those together, multiply by $5, and you'll see how much profit you earned.

The second calculation is just of the money. Copy down your ending cash, then your starting cash, and subtract them. Add to that your total credit card sales and the amount in the Operation: Cookie Drop can (do NOT include the amount on credit card here, because that's already included in your credit card sales). Does your final answer equal your final answer from your cookie inventory?

If yes, YAY!!!!!

If no...

  1. Recount your cookies. And I mean REALLY recount them! Are you trying to count them in your car? Unload them all and spread out so you can see what you've actually got. Repack everything so that you have only one partially full case of each type and the rest are all full cases--multiple partial cases of the same type of cookie are inefficient to carry and a nightmare to count.
  2. Recount your cash. Get someone else to count it this time, or ideally two someones.
  3. Rerun your credit card transactions. Log out and then back into your processing app to make sure its transaction record is completely current. Make sure no other adults ran credit cards on their phone and just forgot to record it. Look through each transaction and make sure you didn't charge someone twice.
  4. Recalculate all of your math. Do the inventory subtractions again, with a calculator if necessary. If you're counting by cases, again, use a calculator to make sure you've got the total number of boxes correct. 
  5. If you can, compare your current total troop inventory to the total troop inventory that you should have. I can rarely do this, because I've got multiple booths going at one time, but if you've just done one booth, then a whole troop inventory might find that you mysteriously are missing a box or have an extra box that will match what you're over or under.
Here's what these booth forms look like in real life:


You can see we write all over them and alter them however we need to. Next year's updated form might include a Notes area, because there are often extra details we want to record...

...such as how on earth we can end up with $817, when all of our cookie boxes are FIVE DOLLARS EACH. I SUPER love it when everything equals out, but I have to admit that when we're over or under, even by a little bit, it drives me nuts.

ESPECIALLY when we're over by a number that doesn't even equal a box of cookies!


Thankfully, we mostly equal out:


But sometimes we don't, sigh:


But mostly we do:


So how do you assign all of these sold cookie boxes fairly to girls who worked varying hours at each booth?

You turn it into a rate-time-distance problem!

Distance = rate x time. Distance will represent how many cookie boxes a girl sold. Rate is how many boxes she earned per hour, and time is how many hours she worked.

To find the rate for a booth, add up the total number of hours every girl worked altogether. Let's say Girl A worked 2 hours, Girl B worked 3 hours, and Girl C worked 5 hours at a booth. Maybe the worked all together for part of the time, or maybe they all came in shifts--doesn't matter. Just add up the totals and you have 10.

Divide the total number of cookies sold at that booth by the total number of hours worked. Let's say that this booth sold 100 boxes of cookies. 100/10 = 10, so 10 boxes of cookies per hour worked is the rate for this booth.

Rate x time means that to find each girl's distance, or total boxes of cookies she, personally, gets credit for, all you have to do is multiply the number of hours she worked by the rate.

Girl A earned 2x10, or 20 boxes of cookies.
Girl B earned 3x10, or 30 boxes of cookies.
Girl B earned 5x10, or 50 boxes of cookies.

This also works with partial hours. If Girl A had worked 2.75 hours, then she'd have earned 2.75x10, or 27.5 boxes of cookies. You can't allocate partial boxes, so someone will have to gain a whole box or lose a whole box somewhere.

If you're mathy, like me, then you can eat up all your free time doing all this pleasant cookie booth math. But even if you're not mathy, you should be functionally literate in math, which means that you should be able to easily handle the calculations required. And, of course, it's very important to give ownership of this process over to the girls, whenever you're able. An elementary school student can do all of the inventory calculations with your oversight. A middle school student can run all of this math with your guidance. A high school student who's had enough Algebra 1 to know how to solve a rate-time-distance problem can do it all without you standing over their shoulder.

And what's more, they SHOULD be doing this. THIS is why we study math. We study it so that we have the tools to solve whatever problems come our way in life. We study it because it's important to be functionally literate in all areas. We study it because we want to be able to calculate, distribute, count, and audit.

We study it because one day we might find ourselves in the Girl Scouts, and Girl Scouts sell cookies!

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