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A good math software can help you engineer faster

Need to engineer faster? Make sure your math software does these four things well

Mike Gayette.
Mike Gayette.

Relatively little about mathematics has changed since we were calculating angles on an HP 11C back in sophomore year. Everything from distributive law to integral identities remain as true today as they have for the past, oh, one or two thousand years.

Yet STEM professionals can hardly relax, assured that they learned everything they need to know in college. That’s because business and government want increasingly better performance from their mathematicians, scientists, and engineers (which, for the sake of parsimony, I’ll collectively call “engineers” in this post).

In the 21st century, the world wants accuracy, clarity, security, and adaptability—and it wants it fast.

That’s where new developments in technology help. If you’re under pressure to get results quickly, or you just want to impress your team, it’s time to look at what’s going on with engineering math software these days. Here are 4 areas where the your math software can do more to help you shine:

Unit Conversion

Maybe there was a time when we were so isolated that we never worried about mixing units (though I kind of doubt it). Today, information comes from sources everywhere. Think about a design engineer working on a medical device in the United States using English units now trying to add an optical head made in Europe. 

Unit conversion mistakes can, and do, tank budgets, timelines, and reputations. That’s why engineering math software now exists that can quickly catch and convert unit inconsistencies. Good software today will: 

  • Carry units forward through all calculations.
  • Show unit conversion automatically in all numerical results.
  • Flag any unit-related errors.

That should come as a relief to anyone who’s ever mistook a pound foot for a Newton.


According to some sources, Albert Einstein said, “You don’t really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.” So how would you explain this?

Advances in engineering math software now can transform an equation like that into something that looks like it sprang from a textbook.

I admit that your kin still might not get it, but your colleagues and clients certainly will. That’s important as you share your work with people who may need to check it, leverage it, approve it, and otherwise save you from horrible embarrassment due to one missed pair of parentheses.


Speaking of sharing your work … how do you protect yours from intellectual property theft? Sometimes it’s not as simple as withholding your files.

For example, imagine a customer wants to show your calculation work to people in her office. The worksheet you produced includes calculations that aren’t proprietary. Still, it is a useful template and you want it protected.

With newer math software, you can now lock, and even password protect the material within a calculation worksheet.

The customer and coworkers can poke around the worksheet and see some things, but they can’t make changes to any of it. Best of all, you don’t have to risk accidental changes or meddling as you spend valuable time creating standardized templates.

When professionals communicate math clearly like this, they reduce error and miscommunications, and that leads to better, more reliable results faster.


Anyone who works with clients knows that they change their minds. Sometimes for good reasons, sometimes not so much. Either way, now you can use web portals to handle calculations on the fly from anywhere. The interface is a simple website with input fields. Enter the data, and a server in your office or in the cloud carries out the calculations. 

Imagine a customer needs quick cost estimates. Now, you can just point them to a web form. They don’t need to know the calculations behind it. They just type in the numbers and get instant answers.

Some secure self-service options help customers be self-sufficient for simple tasks. With luck, they’ll pick up the phone (or send an email) next time they need help with more complicated projects. 

This article is wriiten by Mike Gayette, an IT professional and freelance writer based in North Dakota, for PTC, and has not been written by Construction Week's editorial staff.

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