Small Business and Budgets Lesson Plan: Ice Cream Truck Game

Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8

In this budgets lesson plan which is adaptable for grades 3-8, students will use BrainPOP resources and an online math game to explore the importance of budgets when running a small business. Students will  apply a variety of math skills (including multiplication and division) as they attempt to maximize profits, cut expenses, and maintain customer satisfaction in running a simulated ice cream business.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Create, manage, and adjust a budget for an ice cream truck business as part of an online game.
  2. Adjust expenses to maximize profit and balance customer satisfaction with product cost.
  3. Apply basic math skills (such as multiplication, division, and metric measurement) during game play.
  4. Work cooperatively to analyze various economic issues within the context of a small business.

Materials:

  • Internet access for BrainPOP
  • Computers for students to use during game play
  • Class set of photocopies of the Ice Cream Truck Worksheet

Preparation:

This lesson plan uses a free online math game by Hooda Math. In Ice Cream Truck, players purchase ingredients for ice cream and then choose their recipe and price. They must balance their costs with increased popularity (and therefore increased customer base) that comes with the best recipes. The goal is to make enough money to move on to the next city, where game play increases in difficulty and even more money can be made. The game is also available for use on mobile devices: simply download the app in the iTunes app store.

To prepare for this lesson, preview the game as well as the corresponding movie topics to plan how you can adapt them for your students' needs. You may want to show the Metric Units and/or Metric vs. Customary movie if students are not familiar with the metric system of measurement. You'll also need to make a class set of photocopies of the Ice Cream Truck Worksheet.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Play the Budgets Movie for the class and talk about key terms related to budgeting. You can use the Vocabulary Page to help guide the discussion: just project the form and type directly into it as students share their ideas about the various terms.

  2. Ask students if any family members, friends, or neighbors own small businesses. Talk with students about how budgeting is essential, and the ways in which business owners must consider variable expenses, a fluctuating customer base, etc. when determining how to ensure their income is greater than their expenses.

  3. Tell students that they will have the opportunity to see how budgets are used when running a simulated business: they will get to own an ice cream truck! Project the Ice Cream Truck game for the class to see and click through the instructions, discussing them with students and pointing out key aspects of the dashboard.

  4. Demonstrate how to choose inventory and the amount of ice cream and toppings per serving at the beginning of the game. Encourage students to think critically about their options, rather than just choosing randomly. What are the advantages and disadvantages of choosing cheaper ingredients? More expensive ingredients? What might happen if you give too much ice cream and/or toppings for each serving? Too little? You may want to play a few minutes of the game together as a class, reflecting on these questions and adjusting the amounts as you go.

  5. Pass out copies of the Ice Cream Truck Worksheet. Explain that before opening for business each day, students will need to purchase inventory and set the amount per serving of each ingredient. They should record this information in the table on their worksheet. At the end of each day, a graph will appear showing their progress. Students should read this graph and record the information, as well.

  6. Provide time for students to explore the game independently or with a partner. You may want to ask students to pause their game play after the first or second rounds (simply leave the game on the dashboard view that's shown in between cities and don't click "Start Day") so that you can discuss their strategies. How does cost affect sales? What factors appear to cause customers to become dissatisfied? What can be done to improve customer satisfaction? What's the best way to balance expenses and customer satisfaction with the product?

  7. As students continue game play, encourage them to use the worksheets to record their results, and guide students to analyze their choices and problem solve effectively.

  8. Afterward, have students talk in small groups. Is there an ideal balance of quality and price? What choices result in the most income? Students may want to use the back of their worksheet to reflect on these topics in writing. Remind students that they can access the game at home and can play additional rounds whenever they'd like.

  9. Challenge students to consider what they learned during game play and apply it to a real-life business they would like to run. What expenses would they have as a business owner? What factors would affect their success? What strategies would they use to maximize profits? How would they use a budget to help them? Students may want to interview local business owners to gain more insight. Encourage students to share their ideas in a blog post for your class website, or via multi-media presentations.

Extension Activity:

Students can explore the basics of government budgets in our Budget Hero game. Be sure to check out our other Math Games and Social Studies Games in GameUp!