Why Do Elephants Have Wrinkled Skin?

Have you noticed how wrinkled an elephant's skin is? What purpose does it serve and what does math have to do with explaining this phenomenon? Well, the explanation for an elephant's wrinkled skin is almost entirely a math story. 

In this module students explore rational expressions and functions in the context of the ratio of surface area and volume for various three-dimensional figures. Such figures can be used to model the basic shapes of animals.

This ratio reveals a lot about how an animal is able to retain heat or lose it rapidly, depending on the animal's habitat. The geometry of heat transfer also has applications in architecture and design.

What your students will learn:

  • Calculate the ratio of surface area and volume
  • Graph rational functions
  • Solve real-world problems using rational functions

Make sure your students know the basics of rational numbers and functions. 

Math Concepts

  • Functions
  • Ratios and Rates
  • Geometry
  • Algebra

Learning Objectives

  • Calculate the ratio of surface area and volume
  • Graph rational functions
  • Solve real-world problems using rational functions

Prerequisite Skills

  • Understanding of rational numbers
  • Understanding of the basic properties of functions
  • Understanding of area and volume formulas for simple geometric shapes

Lesson Preview