Applying Linear Equations: Calculate Your Speed in a Race Against Usain Bolt

Aligned to standards 8.EE.C.8: Analyze and solve pairs of simultaneous linear equations, 8.F.A.2: Compare properties of two functions each represented in a different way, and 8.F.B.4: Use Functions to Model Relationships.

Usain Bolt is the fastest man in the world. The Olympian broke the world record by finishing the 100-meter race in only 9.58 seconds. No average joe would dream of beating that record. But if Bolt were to give you a 20 meter head start, would you stand a chance?

We’re featuring a mini-project that invites students to apply their linear equation skills to calculate Bolt’s speed. This project is aligned to state math standards and designed to challenge your students at a level that is appropriate to them.

The complete project plan is available for download here in Word or PDF format.

Here’s an overview of the activities you’ll find in the project packet:

  • Students will write a letter to Usain Bolt detailing the conditions of their potential race based on their mathematical calculations. First, students will run a 100-meter dash to calculate and compare their meter per second race time with Usain’s race time.
  • Students will write linear equations, graph a system of linear equations, and solve a system of linear equations both graphically and algebraically to determine key moments in their race against Usain Bolt.
  • The project culminates with students writing and sending a letter to Usain Bolt that describes the race conditions necessary to beat him in a race.

The detailed project plan/packet on Goalbook includes:

Engaging hook — Students will watch Usain Bolt’s impressive 9.58-second sprint and read a letter from Bolt that challenges them to a race

Calculations template — Students will record their own run time on provided templates and calculate their speeds

Letter template to Usain— After students have completed their calculations, they will write a letter to Usain Bolt detailing their findings

The complete project plan is available for download here in Word or PDF format.