In Case You've Wondered

My blog is where my wandering thoughts are interspersed with stuff I made up. So, if while reading you find yourself confused about the context, don't feel alone. I get confused, too.

If you're here for the stories, I started another blog:

One other thing: sometimes I write words you refuse to use in front of children, or polite company, unless you have a flat tire, or hit your thumb with a hammer.

I don't use them to offend; I use them to embellish.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Numbers in My Head

I had to bring my paperwork to the office this morning. As I drove, I thought of the numbers that roll around in my head. They're there for immediate reference and I doubt I'll forget any in the future, unless I become severely demented.

110 - The pounds of one inch of asphalt base per square yard of coverage

9 - Square feet in one square yard.

2000 - Pounds in one ton.

27- Cubic feet in a cubic yard

150 - Pounds per square foot of each foot of concrete in a form. If you run the numbers, tall pours require substantial bracing at the bottom of a form. Wall ties I approximate at 2000 pounds of tensile strength each.

1/8 - The rise in bar diameter in inches for each designation. For example No. 3 bar is 3/8 inches. No 4 is 1/2 inches, No. 5 is 5/8....etc.

3.142 - An acceptable approximation of pi for calculations involving circles.

.7854 - pi divided by four. I use it to multiply with the diameter squared of a circle to determine the area. (I find it easier to to use.)

.2156 - The area of a fillet. I use it to determine the square footage of a fillet in the turnout radius of a drive.

3.28084 - feet in one meter

25.4 - millimeters in one inch

39.375 - inches in one meter

7.62 - meters in one standard section of guardrail, which slightly longer than 25 feet to allow for lapping.

6.25 - distance between the centers of standard guardrail posts.

21 - inches above the ground for the center line of a guardrail bolt.

3,4,5 - Proportion of a right triangle. When all you have are two measuring tapes, some string and some stakes, any multiple of the three dimensions can be used as a poor boy way of squaring anything.

490 - weight of a square foot of steel. I've used this to determine the unknown weight of structures for demolition. Measure the members, figure the total cubic feet and you arrive at a usable approximation of weight.

231 - cubic inches in a gallon. This required when figuring the amount of sealant for sealing paving cracks, or caulking.

The list goes on. I use the decimal value of inches constantly, since surveying requires conversion of inches to feet.

In school, I was deplorable in math. I'm guessing my mind doesn't work well with abstract numbers, but can make do with practical applications.


  1. I hated formulas but could draw pictures and get the answers. When I, the English teacher, had to teach algebra and geometry, I found I could use mnemonics I made up. It suddenly occurred to me that I am good at math, but only as spoken in English sentences! So, I because very good at teaching people who, like I, were more word people. I am good at the abstract, but I use words to make it accessible to me and others. I was hired at one place to write curriculum, but became dubbed as the "math specialist." Later, I was the only substitute in a school system that one high school math teacher would allow to actually teach new concepts--all this from an English teacher. He just assigned in class reviews to other subs. After teaching as I subbed for a week, he said I must know what I was doing because they all scored high on their test over that material. I just wish all those math teachers could have heard that. I am now good with abstract and practical!

    1. I don't know why I had such a hard time, although some of the teachers I had were not the best. I did have physics teacher that had opportunities to teach at the college level, but he didn't want to specialize and loved all physics.

      Unfortunately, the teacher was dealing with me, and my knowledge of algebra - even after two years of classes - was not good enough to get anything but a low C in his class.

      Still, after buying a good calculator, with a good instruction book, algebra "clicked" and I use it all the time.

      Trigonometry became a demand after I moved up in management and was required to lay out some foundations that held pipes that wandered through an industrial facility. The skews gave me a fit, until I found a book with enough information to calculate what was required.

      I haven't delved into Calculus. Maybe in the future.

    2. I told my students that if they could not get algebra, geometry, or even how to convert a mixed number to an improper fraction, it was my fault. I had not taught in a way that they understood. Teachers must have a "bag of tricks" to allow them to reach people who learn in all different ways. My repertoire of tricks was boundless. It is funny, but when students see a teacher work so hard for their benefit, they begin to focus and learn instead of thinking about how stupid they feel, how dumb other teachers made them feel. I took all the blame for their failures in my classroom.

      When they heard I did Algebra for fun at night, they thought I was kidding, then thought I was crazy.

      When I had to tutor a student one placed I worked in Calculus and Trig, I was terrified. She was a college student that reported she was finally passing whatever class she was taking. I had to figure out Trig with her watching. At this job, I tutored all college subjects at any level, except for algebra at remedial level and first year. I still don't know why they accepted the Trig student. At this job I wrote curriculum for the other teachers, tutored college students, tutored middle school students, and taught GED, all in the space of one day, each and every day.

      All the math was fun.

    3. For some reason, math scrambles my ability to concentrate. I'm thinking it's one of those right brain left brain things.

  2. 3,4,5 is one of the little known tricks I impress people with when I set machinery.

    1. I worked with an old carpenter that was adamant on only doubling the numbers. When I had an opportunity to use 15 for the hypotenuse and used 9 and 12 for the other two measurement, he was nervous as hell. He didn't think my measurements would work.

  3. I used to tutor parents at the plant I worked at so they could help their kids.
    Frankly, I found a lot of the books were written poorly, presenting concepts out of order. When I explained it, or skipped ahead, they got it.
    Never got further than pre-calc.
    Never had to.