How building a miniature golf course teaches applied math (**Gallery**)
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Stevens Middle School eighth-graders Abby Bohman, left, and Saphfire Brown attach a range of mountains that a golf ball must travel through on the way to the hole. -- Photo by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
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Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Putters on a student-built miniature golf hole must accurately roll the ball down a ramp built to look like a flowing stream.
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Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Elizabeth Stevenson, left, and Madison Kuss check the level on a carousel that adorns a miniature golf hole they are working on.
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Stevens Middle School
The students who completed an online mathematics curriculum are, from left, Elizabeth Stevenson, Saphfire Brown, Abby Bohman, Madi Kuss, teacher Brian Gundersen, Trey Hoover, Hamish Elliott, Cody Shields and Madi Bradley.

By Paige Dickerson
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT ANGELES — Brian Gundersen wanted eighth-graders in his math classes to take a swing at applying math.

So he developed an online curriculum and set up the creation of Stevens Middle School's own miniature golf course.

Gundersen collaborated with another teacher, Rob Edwards, who had set up a website,, which allowed teachers to add extra online assignments for students.

Gundersen posted a series of 16 math concepts "that included everything from surface area to Pythagorean theorem," he said.

Students who finished all of the units were allowed to participate in a field trip to a miniature golf course between Sequim and Port Angeles and then create their own course of four holes.

One of the holes has a moving carousel and a loop-de-loop, which mimics the motion of a roller coaster.

The carnival theme was inspired by the clowns with opening and closing mouths that are frequently at miniature golf courses, said Elizabeth Stevenson, who worked on that hole with Madison Kuss.

She said that although she was already confident of her ability to do the math, the practice gave her a chance to use the methods -- for example, calculating surface area for the green turf.

"Plus we learned a whole lot about using power tools," she said.

"And we know a lot about building things now."

The Jungle Hole, created by Trey Hoover, Hamish Elliott and Laurel Gieseke, features a raised portion from which golfers aim to hit the ball down a slanted board mimicking a waterfall to the hole on the second level.

"This one was interesting to watch them create because to make the waterfall they had to use the Pythagorean Theorum to determine exactly how long it should be so that it ended in the right place," Gundersen said.

"You can really tell that they all put a lot of work into this."

The Paradise Hole, made by Madi Bradley and Cody Shields, uses an old Coast Guard rescue float to knock the ball through the opening. A narrow strip of "land" leads to the hole.

On either side of the strip, the students created plaster sand and deep-blue water.

"It has the big sand traps on either side," Gundersen said.

Saphfire Brown and Abby Bohman created the Swiss Alps hole, with a large mountain at the end and tiny peaks providing obstacles for the holes.

Bohman said she and Brown used a lot of proportions while creating their hole.

"We had to work with the proportion of water to glue and all the other materials," she said of the papier-mâché used to craft the mountains.

Ultimately Gundersen said he thinks of the experiment as a success.

"They had to get every single question right and if they didn't I made them do it over," he said.

"They were really dedicated.

"These are built to be really sturdy.

"We are hoping to get them out for the dances and for parent teacher conferences so the kids have something to do while we talk with the parents."

He said he wasn't quite sure where the massive structures would be stored, but he hoped that next year a few new holes could be added.


Reporter Paige Dickerson can be reached at 360-417-3535 or at paige.dickerson@peninsula

Last modified: June 20. 2010 1:23AM
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