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Marvelous Miniature Golf

Author: Heather Krieger


This unit idea originated from a book titled Math: Challenging Units for Gifted Learners, by Kenneth J. Smith and Susan Stonequist. After subsequent internet research, the project evolved into an amazing STEM experience for 6th grade gifted and talented students. Participants learned the math and science involved in the game of miniature golf, and then designed and built a nine-hole course.

I began the unit, by reviewing types of angles and had students go on a scavenger hunt for angles throughout the building. They needed to find and photograph a collection of angles that added up to 360°.

Students learned about Newton’s three laws of motion, and performed short lab activities to demonstrate each concept. They applied each of the three laws to the game of golf.

1. A ball will remain at rest unless a force (golf club) is applied upon it. A golf ball will remain in motion unless a force (friction, gravity, obstruction) acts upon it.

2. Force = Mass x Acceleration. The force applied on the golf ball directly affects its acceleration. The greater the force, the greater the distance. Also, if the mass of the ball is increased, a greater force will be needed to move the ball a given distance.

3. When the club exerts a force on the ball, the ball exerts a force back on the club.

Using flashlights and mirrors, students discovered the law of plane reflection. They were able to prove that the angle an object strikes a mirror is equal to the angle the object reflects off the mirror.

Next, with a 2’ x 4’ x 10’ board, students experimented with aiming a golf ball at various points and observing the behavior of the ball. They concluded that in order to score a hole-in-one, the angle of incidence must be equal to the angle of reflection.

After a brief lesson on levers, students demonstrated that a golf club is actually a third class lever.

Since the final shape of each hole was to be one of the 12 possible pentominoes, students were taught the definition of these objects. A pentomino is a geometric shape made by adjoining five squares with one another, edge to edge. Students used graph paper to discover and draw each pentomino, and then cut them out. The shapes can be arranged into 4 different rectangles.

Students were provided with scale drawings of each pentomino-hole shape, and used their new understanding of angles and reflections to prove how a hole-in-one can be achieved. They were required to bounce the ball off 2 bumpers for at least 5 of the

holes and 3 bumpers for at least one hole. In order to draw their proofs of scoring a hole in one, students first needed to learn how to draw geometry constructions using a compass and straight edge. They specifically needed instruction on drawing a perpendicular line from the hole to the last wall the ball would be banked off of.

Once the perpendicular line(s) was drawn, it could be reflected off the wall(s) to draw the 12 geometric proofs. For the technology and engineering components of the project, each group was then assigned one pentomino shape for their hole. Hole designs were made using Google SketchUp. Holes were then constructed by cutting pieces of lumber with the length of one side of a square in the pentomino equal to two feet. The pieces were attached using pieces of dowel which fit into holes formed by a drill press. (See attached photographs).

Finally, the students were required to decide upon a theme for their golf course. They selected "Board Games" and each hole represented a different game. Some examples were Candyland, Monopoly, and Chess. Recycled materials were used to decorate the hole based on the game. This required artwork by the students resulting in a STEAM project.

Students were highly motivated and engaged throughout the entire project. They were amazed at the math and physics involved in something recreational. The level of learning that took place was well beyond the 6

th grade curriculum. The math and science concepts in this project are often difficult for high school students to master, and after completion of a written exam, it became evident that my students have a strong understanding of Newton’s Laws of Motion and the Law of Plane Reflection. Student understanding was a direct result of the real-life examples and hands-on experiences.

Subjects:  ScienceTechnologyEngineeringMathematicsIntegrationInspiration
Grade Level:  6789101112
Keywords:  Reflection Angles Newton's Laws
Types:  Activities

Debra Neubart says:
10-Mar-14 10:46 AM

This fits perfectly with my current unit. Thank you!!

Donna Zepf says:
14-Jun-13 03:16 PM

Thanks for the idea, I'm going to build onto this idea for my geometry class :)

Heather Krieger says:
12-Oct-12 11:41 AM


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Resource Files

1 Intro to Angles.pdf

1 Intro to Angles.pdf File Size: 129 KB

5 Pentominoes.pdf

5 Pentominoes.pdf File Size: 146 KB

5 Pentominoes.pdf

5 Pentominoes.pdf File Size: 146 KB


Pictures.pdf File Size: 357 KB

STEM Bibliography.pdf

STEM Bibliography.pdf File Size: 54 KB

STEM Bibliography.pdf

STEM Bibliography.pdf File Size: 54 KB