Math IS Real Life: January 2017 Edition – helping my dad out!

It’s the first Wednesday of January which means it’s time for our monthly linky – Math IS Real Life!! If you want to see how the linky works, or just want other real world math ideas, check out our Pinterest Board of all the posts so that you can look back and find some great ideas and REAL pictures to use in your classroom!

If you are linking up, please include the below picture to link back to this blog post


 A monthly REAL WORLD math blog link-up hosted by MissMathDork,


First things first, HAPPY NEW YEAR to each of you!!  I hope you had a wonderful break 🙂

A few months ago my dad called me and asked me to help him with some measurements.  He wanted to build his own workbench, but he wanted to make it in a very specific design.  As he tried to explain the design to me over the phone, I was trying to picture what he wanted, but couldn’t quite get there.  I asked him to sketch out the design, snap a pic on his phone and send it to me. (See below… albeit VERY blurry!)

Once I had a picture, I called him back and we started chatting.  He had been crunching numbers and each time getting a different answer.   The more I understood his design, the more I understood the problem he was having – nothing was lining up exactly how he wanted.

Must haves :

*5.5 x 5.5 legs that would be seen from above and be used as a support all the way through.

*2 x 4 boards laying on the 2 inch side.  ***Side note – 2 x 4 boards are NOT actually 2 inches by 4 inches – they are closer to 1.5 x 3.5.  Interested to find out why – check out this post I found ***

A 1.5″ skirt that would wrap the entire workbench.

After chatting some more, I created the below image and sent it to him.

To get the 5.5 x 5.5 legs to work, he would have to use three 2x4s and a 2×4 that had been planed down to 1 inch wide.  This would allow the next board to lay flush to the entire length of the bench.  Also, using two 2x4s side by side made it easy to deal with measurements – 3 inches wide. 

Then he created an image and sent it back to me. 

We ended up going back and forth via email the next few days and finally I received this email (edited to remove extra non-mathy information and to put one mathematical calculation per line for readability 🙂

“I think I may have it.  Check my math please.

Make the bench 44” wide.

Take into consideration the 5.5 “ on the sides for the legs.

44” – 11” = 33”.

33 divided by 1.5 inches = 22.

22 x 1.5 = 33.

22 – 1.5” boards + the 3 – 1.5 board at the legs, (including the skirt) + the 1” board to fill in the extra 1” at the legs should fill in the table.

If I make my skirt 84” long (no problem) and 44” wide, it will take 28 – 1.5” boards and 2 – 1” boards to equal 44.  I think.

Check this out when you have time.  If my ciphering is right, I should be able to make it either 38”, 41”, 44” etc for it to come out even.”

After a few more calculations we decided that he had it!  Voila!  He math-ed the heck out of that design 🙂

Fast forward a few months (he takes his annual vacation at the end of December too!) and he was able to start working on his design.  Here are a few pictures that he sent me the other day via his phone (Photo credit: dad!)

The skirt and legs are in place.

Extra strength added to the legs.

Five 2x4s + skirt create the 6 boards in our design.

Two 2x4s in place ready for the planed down 1×4 to be added.

All the 2x4s are officially in place!

I love how his workbench has turned out so far!! (and I love that he called to ask me for help!)

I can’t wait to see the finished project next time I visit!!  Great job, dad!!


  Don’t forget to check out the other MIRL posts below!  Check back over the next few days – more will be added!!

Categories: #mirl, computation and estimation, geometry and measurement, hands-on math, math is real life, and mathematical reasoning.

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