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Miniature golf provides a major math lesson at MVES

Students play one of the 20 mini golf holes designed as part of a geometry lesson at Meadowview Elementary School.

The fourth grade pod at Meadowview Elementary School seemed more like a golf course and less like a classroom space last week, as all 115 or so students were busy playing mini-golf.

Give it a second look, though, it was evident quite a bit of learning was going on. The 20-hole mini golf course students had constructed was the culmination of a recent geometry lesson.

In recent weeks, students learned about geometric concepts like parallel and perpendicular lines, angles and shapes like triangles, rhombus, squares and trapezoids. But teachers wanted to try something that would give perspective to the concepts students had just learned.

The result was a challenge for students to design a mini golf course for what the teachers called, The 4th Grade Pod Mini Golf Association, 4GPMGA for short.

“We wanted something that would stick with them,” teacher Kiley Simonson said, “so we thought, let’s do mini golf put-put holes, because those involve complex figures.”

The students were placed in groups of four to six. Each group was challenged to come up with a theme for their course. The course had to be challenging, with bunkers, mountains, forests, or any other type of obstacles. The elements had to include a variety of 2D shapes, like a square lake or rhombus walls.

Students came up with themes for their holes. One was designed as Tiger Stadium and had a recording of Survivor’s “The Eye of the Tiger” playing from underneath the hole. Another was designed as a pirate ship complete with canons that launched the golf ball through the course.

They used all kinds of materials to build the holes. Egg cartons, toilet paper and paper towel rolls, duct tape, stuffed animals, empty cereal boxes and even figurines were incorporated into the designs.

But the students also had to be able to accurately measure at least two angles of 45 and 90 degrees. They had to be able to determine the perimeter and area of the golf hole.

This was no simple golf course. And that’s what teachers heard from students while the kids were designing and building their holes.

“It’s been interesting to hear them talking in class,” Simonson said. “You’d hear a lot of ‘No, it’s not going to work that way,’ and, ‘Try this instead.’ There was a lot of that going on, and a lot of the kids had to go back and make changes or fix something. There was a lot of problem solving involved.”

The lesson wrapped up on Oct. 30, when students set up the entire mini golf course. For nearly two hours, the students went from hole to hole and played mini golf. It was loud. It was chaotic. But the students were still learning to work with angles while their golf balls hit the bunkers or bounced off the obstacles.

“It’s a new thing. We tried it out. It seems to be working well,” Simonson said. “It’s a good chaos around here.”

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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