Find out how your favorite Olympians might fare against the wilder side of the animal kingdom.

This article compares some of the world's fastest and strongest Olympians to animals in the wild. As athletic as we humans think we are, we stand no chance against the animal kingdom. For example, the cheetah is twice as fast as Usain Bolt and the sailfish can outswim 22-time Olympic medalist Michael Phelps. We were both fascinated by these numbers and comparisons. We feel that secondary students would be just as intrigued, drawing upon their interest in sports competition and wild animals.

This engages the mathematical ideas involving comparisons, ratios, intervals, rates, percentages, and conversions. Students have to analyze relationships between the numbers, distances, speeds, and weights in order to draw conclusions, and they then must interpret these results in the context of the problem. This supports several of the Common Core's Standards for Mathematical Practice, including "make sense of problems and perservere in solving them" and "model with mathematics." Even though the mathematics is not explicitly stated in the article, there are many ways to engage the students in mathematical discourse and activities. The following are several ideas for how this article could be used in the mathematics classroom.

- Students can calculate the ratios between the athletes and animals.

- Students can calculate the conversion rates between different units of measure that are not stated in the article.

- Students can calculate speeds given the distance traveled and the amount of time it took to travel that distance.

- Students can create and interpret graphs of the races and include information such as speed and acceleration.

It would be interesting to see where the data is coming from, and determine whether they are racing the best humans and the best animals or the average ones, and see if there is more variance for one group or another. It would also be interesting to have the students think about what would happen if the racing conditions were to change, would the cheetah do just as well over long distances?

To build on the article in the classroom, the students could set up their own races, perhaps either among the animals or pitting themselves against an animal. They could extrapolate from the data to perhaps race the animal, or even the athletes, against other moving things, like cars or trains. This could involve the students investigating to collect more data to simulate these races and perhaps translating these to graphs as well. The article easily allows for the incorporation of multiple representations and promotion of graph literacy, as the students can create graphs of the races or even be given graphs and have to name the mammals being raced based on the data.

In order to engage with this article productively, students would need to be familiar with the Olympics and the level of athleticism that these people possess. There are also a lot of animal names in the article, so it would be beneficial to provide the students with a little information about the animals and a picture so that they can visualize the racers. There are also some higher level vocabulary words in the article that could be addressed to help students understand the article.

-Bella and Shelby-