Lemonade stand offers kids math lessons

Posted: Monday, July 15, 2002

The kids' lemonade stand holds a wealth of learning possibilities. Lessons in math, lessons for life. Bill Kring, President Award mathematics teacher, has suggestions about how parents might bring lemonade-stand lessons to life for young kids. Here are some skill-building elements a lemonade stand might foster:

Planning and Organizing: Planning and organizing play a role in solving problems in math, breaking down complex problems into bite-sized, manageable pieces and coming up with approaches to handle them. Suggesting and helping kids make a plan for the stand shows them the complexities, encourages them to think about possible approaches and to try out potential solutions. For example: Where shall we locate the stand? What equipment do we need? Where do we get it? What ingredients do we need for the lemonade? Where do we get them? What will be our hours of operation?

Estimating and Computing: How much will the ingredients cost? Asking the kids that question and asking them to estimate costs helps build a skill they will use in the classroom. Using the word "estimate" and working with them to add up numbers fosters computational skills and demonstrates that these are useful.

To young kids, our currency doesn't make much sense. How can a nickel be less than a dime when the nickel is bigger? What's the difference between those green bills when they're all the same size?

And making change, that's a tough one until you learn it's easiest to start with the cost and count up to the amount given by the customer. With help, the kids can practice: The lemonade is 25 cents, sir, and you've given me $1. So here's your change -- 25, plus another quarter is 50, plus another quarter is 75, plus another makes $1. Making a fun game out of equivalency of our currency, using real bills and coins, plays off to help kids understand our money and calculate mentally.

Record keeping: Tracking lemonade-stand expenses and income is a great way to help kids get the meaning of money. Parents can help youngsters put together a simple two-column sheet with expenses labeled on the left-hand column, income on the right. For younger kids, you can explain the terms as "money in" and "money out." For kids a bit older, you might also introduce them to accounting -- debits on the left, credits on the right.

Basic graphing and statistics start earlier in schools these days. Keeping track of the highest temperature and the amount of money taken in each day, and displaying those values on a graph, lays the foundation for work soon to come.

Whatever learning possibilities offered, the fundamental lesson is putting together a lemonade stand is fun, fun, fun. And in doing, there's learning.

This column by Karen Lytle Blaha is provided as a public service by the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, a nonprofit institution working with schools and communities in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.

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