Unique Virtual Field Trip Showcases Everyday Math

Students get a virtual greeting from a Hopewell Ranch donkey

“You’ve never actually experienced being hugged until you’ve been hugged by a donkey!”

What does being hugged by a donkey have to do with addition, subtraction, multiplication and division? Mrs. Thielen’s Math Connections Class at Lincoln Middle School recently witnessed first-hand how it had everything to do with the equations they've worked on in class.

Thielen often gets asked the age-old question from students “Am I ever going to use this?” when teaching various math lessons.  To help answer that question Thielen brought in a professional that uses her math skills countless times a day in a workplace you wouldn’t immediately associate with arithmetic. 

Along with Mr. Tebo’s Math Connections Class, students were told there would be a professional joining them to discuss how math applies to their profession.  Many took guesses as to what industry this person might work in and while seemingly everything from engineer to designer were guessed, nobody had the right answer.

On the other end of Thielen's video call was Jodi Stuber, the Co-Owner and Executive Director at Hopewell Ranch in central Michigan. 

“Hopewell Ranch houses a wide variety of animals with the mission to help people heal,” Stuber said, “Horses can actually feel a human’s heart beat from four feet away and it makes them excellent at understanding when something heavy might be on our hearts.”

Students quickly realized that taking proper care of those horses, as well as the other animals at Hopewell Ranch, requires constant use of math.

The Lincoln students were able to meet the second biggest horse at Hopewell Ranch, fittingly named Lincoln, who weighs over 1600 pounds.  They were then told how much Lincoln and the other animals at Hopewell Ranch eat, how much the foods each cost, and applied the math skills they’ve already been taught to figure out the necessary funds to feed the animals each day, week, month, and year.  The costs of different medicines, supplements, and various other expenses were also shared as the students used the numbers to hone their math skills.

The lesson in math also featured a few visits from other ranch residents including bunnies, goats, chickens, ducks, and donkeys while the students were able to witness up close that running the ranch requires some very long days in tough weather conditions. 

Those long days and endless math equations are clearly worth it to Stuber and her staff though, as evidenced by that donkey hug.