Do you hate math?

Many people struggle with math. For some, math is one of those subjects that they grasp quickly. For the rest of us, it is something that we struggle with.

If you are going to work in construction – and more importantly – build a construction career, you are going to have to work with math on a daily basis.

You cannot avoid math. Eventually you are going to be faced with a time when you will have to use math to complete your job.

This Beginner’s Guide to Construction Math will help introduce you to the basic math concepts that you will need to master.

Learning these construction math concepts will help you improve your chances of succeeding in your career as a construction contractor.

Construction Math: It’s Everywhere!

You may or may not realize that you begin to use math the moment you wake up in the morning.

You roll over and look at the alarm clock. Are you late? Determining if you are late for work is a math calculation – time is based on math.

You roll out of bed and race to get dressed – but you want to make your coffee before you leave. How many ounces of coffee do you need to grind for your coffee? Again, a math calculation.

Life is based on math. You cannot avoid it – so you may as well take a hold of it and learn some basic math concepts to help you build your construction career.

When you arrive at your construction site you clock in. This starts the meter running for your day – and math is used to determine how much time you have worked. Your pay is based on math.

You look down at your tool belt.

Hammer – check.

Chalk line – check.

Tape measure – check and wait a minute – measurements are a big part of construction math! You are carrying around a math tool in your tool belt!

Time and measurement are a big part of the construction site!

The Value of Learning Construction Math

Why do you learn anything in construction?

Because you want to master your skills and improve your chances of success.

Think more basic than that. You learn new skills because you want to increase your earning potential.

You want to make more money! Hold on, money is also a math concept. Your value to your company is measured in your paycheck. The more skills you have, the more money you can make. And the more money you make the better your ability to support yourself and your family.

Learning construction math helps you build your personal value – and if you master these skills you will be better able to measure your own value!

You will achieve two goals for the time spent working on one.

Mastering construction math skills does not require you to be Einstein. In fact, these concepts are well within the reach of everyone. You just need to learn them – and then practice them whenever possible.

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Time is Money: Understanding Time in Construction

The old adage goes something like this: Time is Money!

Whoever first uttered these words was onto something. The more you understand how time is related to money, the better equipped you will be to build your earning potential.

You get an hourly wage. You are paid by the hour for the work that you complete. So how do you improve your earning potential?

You can work more hours. But that will only get you so far. Eventually you run out of time. There are only so many hours in a day that you can work.

Working more hours won’t get you to your goals. So, you need to be able to improve your skills to better use the time you have. Does someone do something faster and better than you? Are they able to do twice the work in half the time? They have improved their value. To get to their level, you need to build your skills to achieve the same output.

Time yourself. Start out on your task and see how long it takes you. Can you improve your speed? Are you able to get done a bit faster the next time? If so, your value continues to increase.

Time really is money – especially as it relates to the construction site.

Measuring Your Future Success with Construction Math

Look back down at that tape measure.

As you pull the tape out you begin to see numbers and line marks.

Your first hint that you are looking at math are the numbers. Anytime you see numbers chances are good that you are dealing with math.

You begin to see 1, 2, 12, and so on. If you are holding a 25 foot tape measure you are dealing with 25 sets of these numbers. You are also dealing with the smaller marks in between the numbers. They are the marks that indicate the smaller measurements in between the larger numbers.

One inch – 1”

Half inch – ½”

Quarter inch – ¼”

Eighth inch – 1/8”

Sixteenth inch – 1/16”

The smaller the mark, the smaller the measurement. The mark for the sixteenth inch is much smaller than the half inch mark.

You now hold the key to talking with others on the construction site. That measuring tape is the basis for almost all communications on the construction site. Construction math is the basic language that ties everything together.

If you want to build your skills, you need to learn the basic language. A critical element of construction math is measurements. Master the tape measure to build your foundation for your career.

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Converting Numbers = Building Your Construction Career

Transforming one thing into another requires skill.

Contractors do this every day. They take raw materials and convert them into a finished product. They take lumber and convert it into a home. They take concrete and convert it into a foundation.

But before they can convert raw materials into a finished product on a construction site they need to use construction math to convert quantities on paper. Construction math is required to convert measurements to allow for the ordering, cutting and construction of raw materials into the finished projects that we see all around us.

Conversion requires construction math. It requires contractors to use ratios and fractions to complete conversions.

Conversions can be simple.

96” = 8 feet.

Conversions can be more complex. Converting liquid quantities may be more difficult.

Both require construction math skills.

The Focus 4 of Construction Math

Each skilled trade is unique. A skilled trade may have a unique set of materials that only they deal with.

But each skilled trade typically shares a common set of construction math functions beyond what we have gone over above.

The four primary math functions that each trade shares in common are:

  • Count
  • Length
  • Area
  • Volume

We refer to these as the Focus 4 of Construction Math. Master these and you are on your way to building your career as a construction contractor.

Remember, when you are dealing with numbers you are dealing with math. Counting requires numbers. Even those strange letters after the Superbowl are still numbers, even though they look like letters.

  • Counting requires math. You must add and subtract as you count. You can also use multiplication and division if you are dealing in sets. You count 10 boxes of a product and each box has 1,000 counts of the product. You have 10,000 on the project site.
  • Length requires construction math. Remember the measuring tape. You are going to have to add or subtract quantities based on those measurements. You need to be able to determine length of material needed or quantities that you have completed on a daily basis.
  • Area is a major construction math concept. Length times width. Area is important if you are laying a roof system in place. Or maybe you are laying carpet or tile. If you are looking at a surface and need to figure out how much there is, you are dealing with an area construction math calculation.
  • Volume is a big one. Volume calculations are needed for determining cut and fill if you are an excavator. Do you use dumpsters for trash? How are you going to determine the total amount of dumpsters needed? You got it – volume construction math calculations.

Construction Math: Adding It All Up

Construction math skills are critical for your future success. Attempting to succeed in construction without math skills is like moving to a foreign country and attempting to fit in without learning the language.

Build your skills in construction math to build a successful career. Without construction math skills things just don’t add up.