In an effort to make learning math and calculations fun and easy for his students, a grade six teacher has incorporated Minecraft into his lesson plan.

Mr. Dustin Beniston is a grade six teacher at River Elm School in Winnipeg, and he and his students have created a life-size scale of the entire school in a popular sandbox game called Minecraft.

He says that his class first began working on simple measurements of objects in the classroom, such as the desks and bookshelves, but then one student wanted to measure the entire classroom and they ended up creating a blueprint for the room.

River Elm School blueprint

"From there it kind of just snowballed and eventually we started measuring not only our class but other classrooms as well," says Beniston. "And eventually we had compiled a giant blueprint of the whole school."

It was one of his students, Ben, that suggested taking things to the virtual world and building the school in Minecraft. Beniston says there are probably 400,000 to 500,000 blocks used to create the digital model, but he says the kids enjoyed every second of it.

The grade six teacher says they had to use calculations to scale the school in a way that would seem correct, as the main character in Minecraft is two metres tall, much taller than a grade six student. 

Minecraft can be used as a great alternative to graph paper, as Minecraft also works on a grid system and brings an interactive and 3D experience to typical blueprints written on graph paper.

Once the calculations for the various rooms were done, Beniston let the kids finish the project by adding details of the different rooms, such as adding desks, chairs, decorations, lights, etc.

side by side of classroom (Dustin Beniston)

"I thought it was a bit easier because I was doing something that I liked and I'm good at," says Sawyer Plamondon, one of Mr. Beniston's students. "I'm not a big math person, so it made me like the project."

Another one of his students, Lexington Zastre, says it was a great way to look at math, from an aspect of fun.

"I had such great experiences working on the school with my friends, working on doing all the details. It's just so cool," says Zastre.

River Elm School recently held their parent/teacher conference, and according to Beniston, the children were thrilled to show their parents what they had made. He even says some parents were taking pictures and videos of the digital model of the school.

River Elm School Minecraft class photo

Beniston says they will most likely use Minecraft again in their next unit on space.

"We're going to be building a settlement on Mars and we're going to be using Minecraft to think about things like food and shelter. They have to start thinking about community and they have to start thinking about sustenance, so you can see now that this math project is now correlating and moving towards helping kids to think about sustainability and to think about designing communities."

The teacher has even encouraged the kids to let this project inspire them to think about careers in architecture and design.

Beniston recommends other teachers consider using Minecraft as a teaching tool, as its simplicity and accessibility can be used as a modern tool that kids can understand easily.

Watch the full interview here. Photos of the Minecraft model of River Elm School are below.