One of the most difficult things that kids encounter when they learn about math is how to solve math word problems. My five-year-old, still in kindergarten, is already practicing with simple word problems involving addition and subtraction. I’m sure that kids in elementary school or higher are working with more complex word problems.
Typically, teachers and parents use worksheets to help kids practice their math skills. But while worksheets are useful, they tend to boring. That’s why I really love this brand new math game from Motion Math called Motion Math: Cupcake. It’s a business simulation game where you run your own cupcake shop and fulfill delivery orders. What makes it challenging is the orders are laid out as tricky word problems involving basic arithmetic operations, fractions, proportions, and even the coordinate system.
Design, Set the Price, and Deliver Your Own Cupcakes
As the owner of a new cupcake delivery shop, your business objective is to create as much profit as you can within the 40-day period. You start with $50 and a limited number of ingredients to design your first cupcake.
You bake your cupcake using the simple dough, then add as much cream and sprinkles as you like. You also name it and decide on a selling price. You can experiment with different pricing strategies based on the cost of your ingredients. The tricky part is getting a nice chunk of profit without getting complaints from your customers about the price.
For each day, you will get up to six phone calls. The callers will state their orders as math word problems. You start with the easy ones, and then quickly move to the more tricky ones. Here are some of the early examples:
“3 Playtipus, please.” “Gimme”1 Cuckoo plus 7 more Cuckoo.” “I’d like 2 Yowza and 2 Cuckoo and also.. that’s it. No, wait, 1 more Yowza. Thanks!”
Once you have understood the order, you use the cashier machine to fulfill it. The caller will then reveal the delivery address in a Cartesian coordinates system. You will be given a pair of numbers (x,y) where x is the number of blocks to the east/west, and y is the number of blocks to the north/south. For example:
“I’ll be at (3,1).” “I live 3 blocks north of (-1,0).” “I live halfway between your place and (4,5½).”
Your job is to pinpoint the order to the designated location on the map. With regards to this two-dimensional coordinate system, your cupcake shop is located at (0,0). A quick glance at the examples above indicates that you will be dealing with negative numbers, fractions, and mixed numbers a lot.
The orders are delivered at the end of the day. You navigate through the map on your vehicle by swiping to the direction where you want to go. You can change direction at any time, or stop by tapping on the screen. Once you have spotted the customer, tap on him to deliver the order.
Learn the Economics and Maximize Your Profit
At the end of each day, you will get a report of how many cupcakes you sold and how many profit you made. In order to maximize your profit, you need to learn the economics of the game. If you get it right, your business can quickly move to the next stage. But if you don’t, your growth will be really slow.
Here are some of the steps to grow your shop:
- Reach a certain amount of accumulated daily profit to unlock new ingredients
- Use new ingredients to design new cupcakes with higher profit margin
- Pay attention to customer feedback to know whether a cupcake is too cheap or too expensive
- Upgrade your oven so you can offer up to three cupcake variants at a time
- When a new store has been opened, always compare the prices to ensure you get better deals
- Upgrade your vehicle to increase delivery speed and capacity
- Buy other boosts to increase your daily sales
Parents Need to Know
Motion Math: Cupcake is suitable for kids ages 8+ who are already familiar with multi-step word problems, divisions, fractions, proportions, and the coordinate system. A multi-step word problem requires you to perform more than one arithmetic operation to arrive to a solution. Here are some examples of the multi-step word problems found in the game:
“I want 10 cupcakes. More than half should be Cuckoo, the rest can be anything else.” “I want 4 cupcakes. Cuckoo and Yowza, but more Yowza.” “I need 3 cupcakes for each guest at my birthday party. I invited 7 people, only 2 will show up.”
When you mix in fractions and the coordinate system, these can be quite challenging. Here are some examples of the more tricky word problems:
“I want 5 Feisty and a fifth as many Speedy.” “I’m right in between (0,1½) and (4,5½).” “My 3 kids are having their birthday. One’s turning 2, and the twins are turning 3. Each kid should get as many Harmonic cupcakes as their age.”
Things I Like
The gameplay is quite straightforward to learn, but it isn’t as easy to master. That said, I truly admire how the developers managed to keep the game intuitive despite its complexity. Many of the design decisions are quite clever, for example, you can always see how many cupcakes you can sell for each design when you are buying ingredients. This makes it easy for you to decide what you need to purchase. You can also swipe through the list of ingredients on top to see which ones you need to restock.
Making deliveries are also easy. The coordinates are printed as large numbers, allowing you to make quick decisions and change directions according to your delivery list. When you hold your finger on screen, you can see the grid guides change color from red to green to indicate that you’re near the designated location. Once you have spotted the customer, you can tap on him and deliver your order without having to stop. You can then immediately change direction as necessary to fulfill the next order on the list.
Once you can get pass the tricky word problems, you may want to focus more on how to maximize your profit. After all, this is a money management game where strategic decision making can determine your success. Here are my tips after completing the first cycle of 40 days:
- There’s a difference between a dozen and a baker’s dozen. The first equals to 12 pieces, whereas the latter equals to 13 pieces.
- One of the easiest way to increase your profit margin is to create the most expensive cupcake design possible. Use as much cream and topping as possible to do so.
- You can’t decide on the order of the delivery list. It’s set by the game, so just follow them accordingly.
- When you want to upgrade your vehicle, choose the speedier one instead of the one with more capacity. The 10% bonus tip for speedy delivery is really worth it as the price of your cupcakes increase.
- Because the 10% bonus tip goes straight to profit, it’s a good idea to save money and buy the speedier vehicle as soon as possible.
- Not all of the upgrades are necessary, so make sure you read the description first. For example, the cost of electricity is always very low, thus buying a costly upgrade just to reduce electricity cost by 50% is not worth the investment.
- Depending on your vehicle’s capacity, restocking all your cupcakes to 20 pieces each can be enough for most of the time. However if you have enough cash, increasing this level to 30 is never a bad idea.
- It’s more likely for you to lose some sales due to insufficient ingredients rather than insufficient space in your vehicle. Thus, buying the full-sized refrigerator should come first before upgrading your vehicle’s capacity.
Motion Math: Cupcake is a great business simulation game for kids ages 8+ to practice their math word problem skills with real world problems. Some of these word problems can be tricky as they require multiple steps of calculation, and involve mixed numbers and proportions. When you factor in the coordinate system, this game can be quite challenging even for adults. Turns out, navigating the coordinate system is way more difficult than just pinning a location on the map.
If you love playing with Motion Math: Cupcake, you should definitely give its prequel, Motion Math: Pizza, a try too. Both are great business simulation games for kids. I wish I had them when I was young!
App was provided for our honest review.