Northwest NEWS

July 8, 2002


Kids, lemonade and lessons for life

by Karen Lytle Blaha
   The kids' lemonade stand holds a wealth of learning possibilities. Lessons in math, lessons for life. Bill Kring, Presidential 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 learn 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 the amount given by the customer. With help, the kids can practice: The lemonade is twenty-five cents, sir, and you've given me one dollar. So here's your change - twenty five plus another quarter is fifty, plus another quarter is seventy-five, plus another make one dollar. Making a fun game out of equivalency of our currency using real bills and coins, pays off to help kids understand our money and calculate mentally.
   Record Keeping. Tracking a 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 - debts 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 the 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.