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Grade 4: Mathematical Mini-Golf

The fourth graders took their lessons about area and perimeter into the Gates Lab to put their learning into action by designing and building their own mini-golf courses. “We wanted to bring the lessons to life and use some of the resources we have here at Graland,” Grade 4 Teacher Ms. Courtney Menk said. 
The students began this project by independently designing mini golf courses on graph paper or with their iPads, using their knowledge of area, perimeter, and composite shapes to inform their work. “When we first kicked it off, we gave them no constraints; we told them to be as creative as they can,” Ms. Menk said. “Then, we put them into groups and challenged them to synthesize their own ideas with those of their group members.” This collaboration and revision continued throughout the project, as students then had to incorporate a budget constraint into their plans. “We told them their designs had to fit within a $20 budget, so they had to revise their ideas again within those constraints to hold true to the features they wanted,” Ms. Menk said. When the students were finally able to get into the Gates Lab, they got to work on building their designs with the support of their teachers and Mr. Jorge Chavez, Innovation Specialist. “They worked with the basic area and perimeter formulas to cut pieces of wood according to their calculations, drill them together, and cut turf in the correct area to lay over the frame,” Grade 4 Teacher Ms. Amy St. John said. 

Implementing these core skills while building only enhanced the fourth graders’ learning. “Kids often rush through their calculations without there being a ‘consequence,’ so to say,” Ms. St. John said. “Knowing that they were actually going to have to cut the boards and measure the turf, and that it was all going to have to line up in the end, made the math more real. It brought out more meticulous processes.” Working on a tangible project not only helped the students make more detailed calculations, but it also encouraged them to be more engaged throughout the entire lesson. “The kids are really invested in it,” Ms. Menk said. 

After the students had designed, measured, cut, and built, they were ready for the final piece of the project: playing mini-golf with their kindergarten buddies. The fourth graders set up all of the courses they built and gathered with their buddies to play through them all, navigating tunnels, corners, and hazards of all kinds, all the while proving that math can be fun. What a cool activity, Grade 4!

Graland Country Day School

Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.