Some Maths to Share on One of Those Tired Mornings

Last Friday morning, I had to take Imogen to an appointment. When I returned home, Sophie and Gemma-Rose were waiting for me, hoping I’d spend some time with them. But what I really wanted to do, after driving to and from town, was sit quietly with a cup of coffee. I looked at the girls’ hopeful faces and then I remembered something.

“If you make me a cup of coffee, I’ll have a look for a game we can play together.”

A game? Sophie hurried to make me a drink. I opened my computer: it was an online game. Soon I had an eager girl on either side. What had I discovered? They soon found out.

“We’re going to set up a Lemonade Stand and see if we can sell enough glasses to make a profit. We’ve got $20 of funds to start with.”

Now there are many decisions involved in setting up a small business, even one as simple as a lemonade stand. What recipe is the best? How many glasses are we likely to sell? How much should we charge for each glass?

Sophie, Gemma-Rose and I discussed recipes, supplies, factors that affect the lemonade market like the weather conditions and customer satisfaction. We bought our lemons and sugar and ice cubes, settled upon an initial price per glass, and soon our lemonade stand was in action. As time ticked by, we adjusted the price of our lemonade according to the market. The ‘next day’ we bought more supplies, adjusted our recipe, looked at the weather forecast and decided on that day’s lemonade starting price. We soon found out about spoilage, and inventory losses. A couple of times we had to hang up the ‘Sold Out’ sign much too early in the day. At the end of a ‘week’s’ trading, we looked at our balance sheet and learned all about profit and loss. The final conclusion: we are pitiful lemonade sales girls. We didn’t make any profit whatsoever.

We then tried a new game and set up a Coffee Shop. Would we be any better at selling coffee? The same principles were involved: buying supplies, deciding on a recipe, predicting the market, adjusting the price of each cup of coffee, learning from our successes and failures… This time we made a huge profit!

The girls and I must have spent over an hour playing together, and at the end of the games, I grabbed my records book and wrote:

Principles involved in running a small business
Buying stock
Determining the potential market
Market prediction, factors that affect the market – weather, customer satisfaction, pricing
Supply and demand and how it affects pricing
Inventory losses
Profit and loss
Gross profit

Now that looks impressive, doesn’t it? Lots of maths there. The girls learnt heaps. They had fun. I had fun. It turned out to be a profitable morning’s learning after all.

So if you’re having a tired morning and your children are saying, “Please do something with us, Mum!” how about playing an online maths game with them? Sip some coffee, discuss profit and loss… and enjoy your children’s company.

Oh yes!…If you have to provide records of your children’s learning experiences, don’t forget to turn those enjoyable games into an impressive records book entry. All it involves is using the right language.

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