If you know how to draft a floor plan, cut a board, and swing a hammer but calculations leave you stymied, this hands-on class will give you the tools and the confidence to tackle the numbers, compute the answers, and put them to work. Starting from mathematical basics, we will explore applications of algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and vector physics to make the confusing understandable and the difficult do-able. We will explore everything from the tables on a framing square to the Pythagorean theorum; from the functional triangulation of stairs and roof systems to the use of a scientific calculator and self-generated spreadsheets; from the mechanical advantage of pulley systems and the uses of gravity and friction to the building of A-frames and tripods. Through a combination of classroom lecture, demonstration, investigation, and practical application, we will discover the value of math in building design, engineering, construction, and everyday life.

Course start time: Sunday, 5pm
Course end time: Friday, 5pm


  • Competency Level: Intermediate to Professional

Suggested/Required Reading:

It is assumed that you understand the rudiments of algebra, geometry, and trigonometry and how to use a scientific calculator's basic functions: +, -, x, ÷, (parens), memory store & recall, 1/x (inverse), ², √, xy, exp (10x), π, sin, cos, tan, sin-1 (arctan), cos -1 (arcos), tan-1 (arctan).


Tools/Materials to Bring:

Hand-held scientific calculator, notepad and thinking cap – and Excel spreadsheet software on your laptop (unless you're willing to partner with another).


Day 1

morning (09:00 – 12:00)

• principles of algebra, geometry, and trigonometry

• understanding statistics

• common formulas & conversion factors

• measuring and calculating in feet/inch/fractions

• graph reading

• surveying

• estimating

• building loads

afternoon (13:00 – 17:00)

• practical exercises, discussion and exploration

evening (19:00 – 22:00)

• introduction to spreadsheets


Day 2

morning (09:00 – 12:00)

• structural engineering basics

• R-value, U-value, and heat loss/gain computations

• moisture dynamics algorithms

• solar calculations

• thermal mass ratios

afternoon (13:00 – 17:00)

• practical exercises, discussion and exploration


Day 3

morning (09:00 – 12:00)

• moldings, miters & octagons

• rafter layout

• stair design

• circles and ellipses

• repetitive patterns (siding & tiling)

afternoon (13:00 – 17:00)

• practical exercises, discussion and exploration


Day 4

morning (09:00 – 12:00)

• introduction to rigging

o ropes, knots, hitches and bends

o hardware

o mechanical advantage

o gravity and friction

afternoon (13:00 – 17:00)

• practical exercises, discussion and exploration


Day 5

morning (09:00 – 12:00)

• anchors

• directionals

• shears and tripods

• hoists

• cribbing

afternoon (13:00 – 17:00)

• practical exercises, discussion and exploration

• wrap up and graduation


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