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Gracie & Friends Lemonade Stand
Pros: Clear, guided help for kids who don't get it right away.
Cons: Super-fine focus makes this a bit of a one-trick pony.
Bottom Line: Games do a nice job of providing practice with a very specific early math principle; they work even better as part of a whole teaching unit.
Gracie & Friends Lemonade Stand fits right in with learning units on fundamental early math concepts (such as number literacy). Teachers will likely want their first stop to be the developer's website, where they'll find a treasure trove of guides and resources to supplement gameplay. Gracie & Friends Lemonade Stand works well as a learning-center stop for single-kid play. Be aware that there is no way to create multiple user profiles, so be around to help reset the app for new kids starting at the beginning.
This app could also serve as an example for teachers of how to demonstrate the concept of dividing numbers equally in class. As the teacher's guide suggests, bring learning offline and engage kids in activities in which they must divide objects. For instance, have them pass out snacks, hand out materials for projects, distribute toys, play card games, and so on. Use the concept of dividing a whole into equal parts to give kids a sneak preview of fractions.
Gracie & Friends Lemonade Stand is part of a suite of apps and supplemental materials for preschoolers that teach very specific early math concepts. This app, like the three others, focuses on dividing multiple items or a single item equally. At the lemonade stand, kids tilt the iPad to slide an equal number of ice cubes into two, three, four, or five glasses.
Through 20 levels, kids have more ice cubes to work with and more obstacles to avoid, such as ladybugs or holes in the tray. Once the ice is distributed, kids get increasingly more explicit help if the cubes are not in equal portions. If all is equal, kids move on to pour lemonade, tap to drink it, and move on to the next level. The developer's website has a teacher's guide with full lesson plans, printable activities, and other teaching supports.
Gracie & Friends Lemonade Stand is interesting enough on its own to be a stand-alone app: kids get some quick, easy, and fun practice dividing items into equal groups. The leveled progression of help gently guides kids who aren't quite getting it on the first, second, or even third try. There are a few fun features that may distract some kids, such as device tilting (make sure the iPad is in a drop-safe cover!). While irrelevant to the learning goal, these features do add a touch of entertaining challenge. There's some variation on each level, though kids are essentially doing the same task over and over again.
Gracie & Friends Lemonade Stand really steps up to the next level when used as part of its larger curriculum. Three additional apps approach the same concept in different ways, and a thorough teacher's guide, complete with printable activity sheets, is available on the developer's website. Though this material focuses on a small, very specific early math principle, it's a great way to help young kids work toward number literacy.