The Focus 4 of Construction Math

Each skilled trade is unique. A skilled trade may have a distinctive set of materials that only they deal with. But each skilled trade typically shares a common set of construction math functions.

The four primary math functions that each trade shares 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 numbers, 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 units of the product. You have 10,000 units 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 the length of material needed or quantities that you have completed on a daily basis.
  • Area – lengths times width – 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 number of dumpsters needed? You got it – volume construction math calculations.
  • DISCUSSION OF BASIC VOLUME CALCULATIONS.  The volumes of cubic and rectangular solids are calculated by using either of two formulas:   V = LWH or V = AH V = Volume. L = Length. W = Width. H = Height. A = Area.
  •  Problem 1 – A = 144 square inches and since V = AH, you need only to know the value of H!  Since, in a cube, L, W and H are equal, H must be the square root of 144 square inches!  The square root of 144 is 12, so H =12″.  V = 144 square inches x 12 inches = 1728 cubic inches.  That’s one cubic foot and the equivalent of 7.5 gallons.
  • Problem 2 – In working with a cube, the length, height, and width have to be equal — and they have to be 3 feet each.  Since A= LW, A has to be 3′ x 3′ — 9 sq.ft.  Since V = AH, V has to be 9 sq. ft. x 3′ — 27 cubic feet. Since one cubic yard equals 27 cubic feet, this volume is one cubic yard.

Handling Confrontations

Confrontations occur for various reasons. As a supervisor on the job, you will realize that situations arise when it will be your responsibility to deal with confrontational people. It is best to be prepared for these confrontations rather than be caught off guard. The way you handle these situations will test your character and your effectiveness as a supervisor. Different confrontational situations require different approaches and will result in different solutions. Regardless of the circumstances, you should remain calm and conduct yourself in a professional manner. The following are some examples of situations in which supervisors are often involved.

When persuasion doesn’t work

You are trying to persuade others of your ideas but come face to face with strong opposition. When such a conflict arises, you may be confronted with one or more people who oppose your ideas so strongly that you may have to either negotiate with them or back down and give in to their ideas. Realize that you can’t always get your own way. Even if you think you are right there may be a greater gain in just working out an agreeable solution rather than winning. You might have to compromise with others, to get your way at another time. Sometimes it is better to maintain the status quo and work in an atmosphere of peace rather than try to force change and work in an atmosphere of conflict.

When a difficult crewmember needs correcting

You may be checking on the progress of temporary power installation on your project. When you get to where the power supply is supposed to be, you find the electrical contractor just getting tools out of their truck. He was supposed to be on the job an hour ago. This contractor has been late before and always has an excuse. You have given him the benefit of the doubt in the past, but this time he is holding up others from doing their work. You can leap to conclusions, or you can ask questions to try to find out what the situation is and how to effectively rectify it.

Classroom Activity

What is a recent difficult conversation you were in or observed?

What happened when persuasion didn’t work?

Did negotiation help? If yes, how did it help?

Do you sometimes have to give in to maintain the status quo and work in an atmosphere of peace rather than try to force change and work in an atmosphere of conflict?

How do you handle the situation when another contractor fails to start or finish work on time, holding others up from doing their work?

Strategies to use:

Speak to the person in private.

Describe the difficult behavior to the person as you perceive it.

Ask for the desired change in behavior or performance, be direct but not demeaning. Focus on the problem, not on the person.

Let the person completely express themselves by practicing effective listening skills.

Explain how it is in their best interest to make the changes you are expecting.

Model the behavior you are seeking from your team members and fellow supervisors.

Expect the best from those you work with. High expectations will be rewarded.

When progress or change occurs, be sure to thank the person to provide positive feedback, which encourages more progress.

When a disgruntled crewmember confronts you

You are working in your office and one of your best crew members comes storming in. He’s angry at you for not giving him the day off before the holiday. HE wanted a long weekend. Others have asked for time off but to be fair, you are not giving anybody the extra day off. You could give in and give him the day off or you could stand your ground.

What would you do?