Cool Math Lemonade Stand: Will It Really Teach Your Child About Making Money?

Summer is here, and so is the lemonade stand.  And apparently, so is the lemonade stand online game.  How well does Cool Math Lemonade Stand teach your child about making money?  

Online games.  We love them.  We hate them.  It’s a gift from heaven to distract our kids while we’re cooking or when they’re squirmy at a restaurant.  Or, it’s a powerful reward to get the kids to clean their room / finish their brussel sprouts / do 20 push-ups.  But, we panic that it will rot our kids brains if they’re on it for too long.  

So when my kids came home recently and told me about this lemonade stand game online at a site called Coolmath Games, I was dubious.  In our household, my two oldest children have become quite the experts at selling lemonade offline, making hundreds of dollars last summer.  What could this game teach them?  

Zuzzy (8), is a black belt when it comes to selling at a real lemonade stand.  On her own, she could probably plan, buy, make, and sell lemonade.  You’d be a dollar poorer (but well-hydrated) if you happened upon her lemonade stand.  Zack (7) gets the concept, but would need a fair amount of supervision.  He’s the type of dude who will stand next to his bigger sister and let her do all the work, then just randomly wander off the ranch.

Methodology:  I observed each of them playing the game and asked them questions along the way.  And, once the kids went to bed, I test drove Cool Math Lemonade Stand for myself.  This is real science, folks.  Throughout observing them and playing it myself, I asked one question:

Will it teach your child how to make money?  

How Does Cool Math Lemonade Stand Work?

First, go here to find the game.  

It’s a free game, so there’s an ad at the beginning.  I don’t love having to sit through the ad, but hey, Cool Math needs to pay their bills somehow.  Can’t be mad at that.  Once the ad finishes, it leads you into the game’s instructions.  Be prepared to be hit in the face with a wall of words.  This is fine for bigger kids, but I can’t imagine many kids are going to sit through and read it.  

(Multiple days — the first sign that they mean {real} business)

You start by choosing the number of days you’d like to sell.  You choose between 7, 14, and 30 days.  This is kind of a big deal.  It means you can compare how much money you made (the outcome) each day based on your decisions and circumstances.  It’s a sign that this game is intended to make your child think beyond just math.  The ability to think about how your choices lead to the amount of money you make is one of the foundations of teaching your child about how to make money.  

Anyway, I chose 7 “virtual” days because 14 and 30 seem like a lot of days to be running an online lemonade stand.  Interestingly (or predictably), my kids also chose 7 when they played earlier in the day.  The lazy lemon doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Next is the moolah.  They give you $20.00 to start to buy cups, lemon, sugar, and ice.  Importantly, they also give you the weather forecast to help you make your buying decision.  Both my kids missed this helpful data point because they didn’t read the instructions.  I got it immediately when I played because I watched them stumble.  If there’s anything you take away from this review, it should be this:  You’re smarter than your kids.  And that should make you feel good.

The Lemonade Stand in Action

On my first day, the weather forecast is 59 degrees and overcast.  Challenging weather to start off?  I guess Cool Math’s sophisticated AI sensed that I was a force to be reckoned with by the way I expertly bypassed the instructions.  But, I easily step over this banana peel by buying the fewest cups (25), fewest lemons (10), sugar (8 cups), and ice cubes (100).  (By contrast, Zuzzy bought like 175 cups to sell into a rainy day.  I’m feeling really smart right now.)

I have $16.91 left of my original $20.00.  Let’s go turn this $3.09 investment into some big bucks!

(Check out the use of the words “inventory,” “purchasing,” and “bankrupt.”  These are real business terms.  Cool Math developers aren’t messing around!)

You’ll want to press the “fast forward” button.  Trust me.  This my kids saw and instantly pressed.  The graphics are basic.  The character variety is slim — so slim that you might have the same character as 3 separate potential customers on the screen at the same time, as if triplets just decided to show up wearing the same outfit.  Then you have some odd-ball characters like an orange mascot looking thingy.  Hey, game designers need to have fun too!

At the end of Day 1, I sold 9 cups to 96 potential customers, and now have $19.16.  I don’t make back my original investment.  Cool Math’s assessment of my performance?  Pitiful.  They’re tough graders, saying I should’ve done better in the gloomy, overcast weather.  

Ouch.

Then, in a nice touch, it tells me that my ice has melted (inventory losses).  There goes my ice investment.  Also, the lots you buy don’t line up perfectly — for example, 1 pitcher is 4 lemons, but the minimum lemon lot size is 10 (you math whizzes already figured out that equates to 2.5 pitchers).  So you will generally end up with amounts of lemons / cups / sugar that aren’t quite enough to make full pitchers unless you buy extra things.  I like this.  This is real world stuff.  

(“Pitiful.”  Harsh!)

Day 2 is basically the same steps as Day 1, except I have $19.16 to start, leftover lemons, cups and sugar.  The weather forecast is beautiful.  Time to push all my chips to the center of the table.  I buy a gang of cups, a grip of lemons, a mountain of sugar, and enough ice to freeze Death Valley.  I now only have $3.44 after all my shopping.  Oh, and another thing.  I raise the price of a cup of lemonade from $0.25 to $0.99, the max price in the game.  Go big or go home.

Overflowing with confidence, I press “OK” to start selling on Day 2.  When the day is over, I sell…0 cups.  Curiously,  I get a 16% customer satisfaction rating despite having 0 customers.  Again I’m “pitiful.”  Again, my ice melts.  So does my confidence.

I have all this leftover inventory for Day 3, which is cold but sunny.   Again, I’ve sold zero.  I pump up the sugar per cup to “enhance” the taste.  I’m holding out on price.  By the end of the day, I have $3.44 because I forget to buy more ice that would’ve melted and been a loss anyway.  I’m turning cynical.

Day 4 is cold and overcast.  Great.  Sold zilch again.  This time, 43 of my lemons spoiled.  Also spoiled is my chance at making my money back.  I now have only $1.31 left.  Time to have a heart to heart with my business partners (aka me, myself, and I).  

Because we only have money left to buy 100 ice cubes and now fewer lemons because of the spoilage, we take the nuclear option and lower prices to $0.50 per cup and increase sugar per pitcher.  I’m hoping that cheaper + sweeter = more cups sold.

(You can fiddle with the recipe and price.  Nice!)

I also reduce the ice cubes to 2 per cup because at my current pace of 4, I’d run out too quickly if this thing takes off.  Ok, I’m ready.  Day 5 starts with $0.35 remaining.  It’s warm but rainy. I sell zero again.

Day 6 starts off with with $0.35 remaining. It’s warm but raining. It’s as if I’m reliving Spring of 2017 all over again.  I know how this is going to go.  The rain again washes out my sales.  So I declare “bankruptcy” to see what happens.

When I press it, it shows me a profit and loss statement with my income of $2.25 minus expenses of $21.90. But it does something nice and shows your proceeds from inventory liquidation of $7.36 for a total net loss of $12.29.

So how did my kids do?  Zuzzy struggled to overcome her overinvestment in cups, leaving her little money to buy much else.  Zack started decently, but we had to get going before he could finish.

What Does Cool Math Lemonade Stand Do Well?

  1. Face Scarcity:  You have limited resources to purchase your inventory, so allocate wisely.
  2. Create a Relationship Between Inputs and Results:  You can tinker with the recipe and price to see what sells better.
  3. Deal With Real World Issues:  You deal with real world circumstances like the weather, inventory losses, and spoilage.
  4. Uses Real Business Terms and Reporting:  They introduce terms like “Inventory” and “Bankruptcy.”  They also show a simple profit and loss statement.
  5. As a Parent, You Learn About Your Kids:  To me, this is the biggest benefit.  You get to see what your kids understand and don’t.  You can fill in the gaps.  For example, Zuzzy can do a profit and loss statement based on her real world lemonade stand, but for some reason, she wasn’t accustomed to seeing its online counterpart.  I also learned that Zuzzy is good at asking why something happened, but needs help looking for data and clues that will inform her.  This is to be expected.  Her intuition hasn’t built up yet.

(Strange Alien Mascot Looking Thing:  “Will you accept alien dollars?”)

What Does Cool Math Lemonade Stand Miss?

  1. The First Decision:  Where does that initial $20 come from?  I would have liked to see the first decision you have to make in the game (even before the shopping) be how to finance the purchase of the lemons, cups, sugar, and ice (loan, equity buy in, crowd-funding, etc.) and the implications of each on your profits.  
  2. Feedback:  It tells you that you did wrong and makes fun of you (can you tell I’m not over this “pitiful” thing?), but it doesn’t tell you what you did wrong.  I don’t mind this, since figuring it out for yourself is where the magic happens, but I wish there were a reminder to take time to figure it out.  Perhaps a multiple choice question asking you what you think you could have done better?
  3. Pace:  This is not a miss so much as not being able to replicate the pace of real life.  In this game, you can fast forward hours into seconds. Results are snappy.  Real life lemonade selling is much slower.  Will the real thing hold your child’s attention after getting accustomed to squeezing 7, 14, 30 “virtual” days into an hour?

Play Again?

Yes, definitely.  

My kids were on it for a while (20 minutes or so) and their brains didn’t rot. In fact, they got a little smarter about making money.

It’s less a game and more simulation masked as a game. I actually quite like it and think Cool Math Games was very thoughtful. The interface and graphics were austere, which I actually appreciate.  The graphics don’t distract or interfere with the lesson.  When it just hints at real life, it keeps their curiosity and imagination high.

The nice thing about it is that, unlike other business games (like running your own restaurant), this is something they can actually do in real life.  You can use it as a framework to talk about the importance of matching inventory (supply) with weather  (demand driver).  The point is the children got excited about running a business.  And that’s the first big hurdle — encouraging them so that they want to do it.  But you know what’s better?

Doing it for real.  

Teach Your Child How to Run a Business Like a Pro

What’s great about Cool Math Lemonade Stand is that after your child plays it, you can ask them, “Want to try it for real?”  Playing games that help your child start a business is a good start, but the real learning and habit formation starts by doing the real thing and interacting with real customers.  I’ve found it helpful to have a quick, easy-to-understand guide.  Just fill in the form below, then click “Download” and I’ll send you the FREE guide!

Help your child launch their first business the right way with this FREE Lemonade Stand Guide, exclusively for subscribers.  It’s a perfect, quick, and comprehensive companion to helping your child learn how to make money like a pro.

 

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2 Comments

  • Mustard Seed Money June 21, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    Wow growing up I remember playing a similar type lemonade game. I was always baffled how to get the formula just right but I always had fun playing it. Sounds like it’s an updated version that’s just as much fun while teaching valuable lessons. That’s awesome to hear 🙂

    Reply
    • JT June 22, 2017 at 10:43 pm

      I had no idea previous versions existed! The lemonade stand is such a great way to understand business. I’m so glad people have made it into games!

      Reply

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