There is a base of information about math for people who build that remains the same no matter what type of building work they do. This book describes the knowledge that is needed by anyone who designs, builds, fabricates or maintains just about anything. We have worked hard to make the information in this book straightforward and easy to understand. Once you work to understand the concepts, all that is left is the practice.
It took me years to understand the value of practice. Practice puts the information you learn into your long term memory. An example is in the shooting of free throws in basketball. The coach can show you proper shooting techniques, you can read articles on how to improve your shooting skills or watch other people shoot, but only by actually shooting the ball yourself can you improve your skills.
I find that, with math particularly, working the problems or practices is as important as understanding the idea presented. In this book there are practices after each major idea presented. The answers for all the problems are located in the back of the book. We suggest that you work the first problem of a practice and then check the answer. If your answer is correct, work a few more problems, and check those answers. At this point, if you are having a problem answering correctly, read and work the section again and then work through the practice.
Be sure that you understand each section before you move on to the next. With any foundation, if you want to build upon it and want it to last, it must be stable. If it's not, the structure will be unsteady and there will always be problems. Each section in this book prepares you for the coming sections. Attempting to learn new material when you are unsure of the old steps will cause confusion. If you find yourself confused, retreat, clear up your confusion, and advance again.
Try not to make a section harder than it is. Math is logical, and what you read means just what it says. If you think you already know the material in a section, try working the first problem of the practice. If your answer is correct, you probably do understand, so finish the practice. If you don't answer all of the questions correctly, quickly, and without hesitation, study that section.
Throughout this book, you will find suggestions that you return to a particular page and review the information on that page if you are having problem understanding the new information. You will also find reminders to draw thumbnail sketches to help you visualize the calculation you are doing.
There are two images as icons to help you. There is a remember icon to help you keep key points in mind, and a compass icon that lets you know there is related information in the section Seeing is Believing. This section is a very basic mini-drawing section, which is provided just in case you've forgotten, or never learned, some basic drawing rules. An objective of this book is to encourage you to develop a visual mental image of solutions to problems.
If you are going to buy a scientific calculator to use with this book, there's no need to get fancy. The most inexpensive scientific calculator will do. Just make sure that the calculator you buy has the following functions: