How fast is Usain Bolt?

Pretty fast.

I gave my precalc kids a list of the men's 100 m world records and asked them to compare Bolt's times with them.  Is he on track?  Is he ahead of the pack? Is he lagging?

They're plotting the points, coming up with a line of best fit, then making some predictions (like what will the record time be in 2015 and when will it be 9 seconds?).  Then I'm asking them to do the same process on their calculator and do the linear regression.

It always makes for an interesting conversation!

The question also came up in class as to how long it would take him to run a marathon. After some fun conversions, here's what we came up with:

67.3 minutes. We know it's not possible, but wow. (The world record is 2:03.38)

Here's the document I gave the kids:


  1. IDK I think he could do it...FWIW he was asked to try out for an NFL team strictly based of his speed, he declined in hopes of getting a soccer tryout...

  2. If you haven't seen this article yet, you might want to check it out! A great video and infographic about Bolt's time compared to all the past winners!

  3. Heather - That video is amazing! It'll be perfect to show in class tomorrow. Thanks so much!

    Seller, I'm sure he could run a marathon with training, but he wouldn't be able to keep up that pace. I've seen estimates of him doing between a 4 and 5 minute mile. For one mile.

  4. I used this last friday and it was great. I did learn that many of my precal kids couldn't even make a scale for the x-axis. I about flipped out. Thanks for sharing!!!

  5. Have you seen the Mathalicious lesson about Usain Bolt and his medal-winning times? I believe it's called "On the Mark" and it deals with the fact that Usain is super tall, and his competitors are more average heights. The lesson asks students to contemplate whether runners should run distances proportional to their height, and even reformats a race to simulate who would win. Very fun!

  6. @Jessica - I just recently joined Mathalicious and haven't had a chance to explore a whole lot. That lesson sounds great! I'll have to check it out. Thanks!


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