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Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt is fast…very fast. He’s also tall…very tall. At 1.96 meters (6’5”), Bolt towers over his competition. So does this give him an unfair advantage, and what would happen if instead of everyone running the same distance, Olympic sprinters ran distances based on their heights?

In this lesson students use proportions to determine what would happen if Olympic races were organized differently. Would Bolt still win? If sports like boxing and wrestling have weight classes, should track have height classes?

Students will

  • Given the heights of three sprinters, calculate how far they’d have to run for their distances to be proportional
  • Given the sprinters’ original racing times, determine how long it would take each to run his adjusted distance
  • Use scatterplot data to discuss whether the International Olympic Committee should organizes races proportionally

Before you begin

This lesson requires that students use proportions to calculate adjusted running distances and new running times. However, the process by which students do this is fairly intuitive (and also fairly scaffolded), and does not require prior knowledge of proportions. In fact, this lesson can be an effective way to introduce proportionality.

Common Core Standards

Content Standards
Mathematical Practices