Every school has that one or two kids who can tell you everything about a car engine from ratios to gaping. You have the few who can tell you the stats of every football, baseball, soccer, game or race that has every happened.
Have you wondered how math is used in NASCAR and other major races? Yes, we all know the rate x time = distance formula is the major math equation everyone thinks of but there is so much more math involved in racing.
NASCAR released a wonderful 16 page pdf file made for educators to help students learn more about the mathematics involved in racing. Although the first couple pages refer to an IMAX movie, most of the activities do not need the movie to complete. This guide has two sections, the first is for grades 4 to 6 while the second half is for grades 7 to 9.
The first section contains four activities that use skills such as finding the median, the average, pulling information out of the reading, predicting, and safety. Each activity comes with the lesson plan, worksheets and suggested activities including having students create a small race car out of a home made play dough that they designed. The lesson plan includes answers to all questions.
The section section also has four activities that use skills such as calculating speed, velocity, and acceleration, calculating horse power, tires, angles, and friction, and air resistance. Each lesson has everything needed to teach it from suggestions on introducing the topic, the worksheets, answers, and extensions.
I think this is a well done set of activities because of the real world math applications and you could easily find a race on the internet to show students as a way of introducing the topic.
Scholastic has a nice set of lessons that relate math to race cars. The three lessons cover drag, down force, and drafting. Although this is more of a science unit, it would not take much to add a mathematical component so students learn to calculate drag, etc. It comes with the teacher instructions, worksheets, car template, videos, and all the materials needed to complete this unit.
Math worksheet center has a great article discussing all the ways math is used in racing. It would be simple to create a sheet filled with questions that students answer as they read it. It is a good introduction to the topic. The information is general but it gets the students started on how important math is.
Teach Engineering has a three to four day unit on designing cars to be efficient. This has students design and build a race car to test. Included in this activity is the cost of building the car. Each group has a budget they have to stay within as they purchase supplies. Even after they race their cars, students are required to graph the results so they can see visually. This comes with everything needed to teach the unit.
Finally, from the Henry Ford organization is a 77 page educator digikit on car racing in America. Although it is geared more to be used in a science class, there is still quite a bit of math involved. Furthermore, it is a way to connect math to science to the real world. Again, this has the lesson plans, the worksheets, answers and everything else needed to teach the unit.
I admit, I tend to look at all the material, pick and choose what I have time to teach in the class and which parts meet the standards best so I have a nice cohesive unit. Check these out and enjoy. You might even have one or two students do a project on this. Enjoy.