Closing the Gap Between Strategy and Results

RPM Systems Corporation

Copyright © 2011 RPM Systems Corporation

There is no better learning for math than by using it on an applied basis in the context of how it is actually used in careers that hold a student’s interest.

Typical high school business math seldom goes beyond the basic math inherent in everyday life (checkbook accounting, interest income or expense, credit, mortgages, etc.) or running a small business (markup, discounts, accounting for income and expenses, credit, loans, etc.).

However, looking carefully at the tools and techniques that are useful in project management, algebra and higher math skills like math analysis and calculus can be incorporated to enhance student learning of math that is actually used in business.  Probability, estimation techniques, statistics, data analysis, projections and related business math applications all relate to an organization’s ultimate Return on Investment.

A review of PMBOK’s framework in the Project Management Body of Knowledge shows the math tools and techniques specifically mentioned in different process groups and knowledge areas…where math is in everyday use in business and industry.

Usable advanced business math tools and techniques are prevalent in PM

Math in PM

Overview of Math in PM

There is a body of applied math at a variety of levels that is useful and used consistently in business that can be teased out of existing tools and techniques found in PMBOK?/span>, the Project Management Body of Knowledge (Guide, 4th Edition) or seamlessly added to a course in project management at the high school/community college level.  

Probability, statistics, ROI, the time value of money, data analysis, estimating, projections and research all contain rich uses for math, including algebra and beyond that can lead to understanding of math through relevant quantitative applications that make sense in the world of learners who want to know, “why learn this…what good is it…how will I ever use it? /span>

Elements of algebra and higher order math found in economics, finance and quality management are additional learnings that can be added to PMBOK-based project management classes.

The structure of PMBOK always includes tools and techniques between inputs and outputs as it codifies the process of project management for learners under the umbrella of PMI’s?/span> (the Project Management Institute’s) certification learning content.

This draft document is a first-cut listing of math tools and techniques found in PMBOK, organized by chapter number:

6.4.2  Estimate Activity Durations: Tools and Techniques

Parametric estimating uses a statistical relationship between historical data and other variables.  Three point estimates or PERT (program evaluation and review techniques) analysis calculates an Expected Activity Duration (t? uses a weighted average of three estimates

t1 = (t1 + 4*t2 + t3)/6


t1 = most optimistic duration

t2 = most likely duration

t3= most pessimistic duration

7.1.2  Estimate Costs:  Tools and Techniques

Parametric estimating and PERT analysis are listed as cost estimating tools.

8.1.2, 8.2.2  Planning for Quality and Performing Quality Assurance

Quality audits and Process Analysis uses statistics, data analysis, graphing and formulas for estimating, predicting and analyzing performance against prediction.

8.3.2  Perform Quality Control: Tools and Techniques

Cause and Effect Diagrams, Control Charts, Flowcharting, Histograms, Pareto Diagrams, Run Charts, Scatter Diagrams, Statistical Sampling, etc. are tools and techniques pervasive in today’s business world.  These and other Total Quality Management  tools and techniques can/should be introduced and used throughout a class in Project Management.

11.3.2  Perform Qualitative Risk Analysis: Tools and Techniques

Risk probability and impact assessment, establishing and using risk probability and impact matrices and risk data quality assessments all use probability and algebraic formulas as math tools.

11.4.2  Perform Quantitative Risk Analysis: Tools and Techniques

Data gathering and representation techniques, probability distributions, sensitivity analysis, expected monetary value analysis, modeling and simulation are all quantitative tools and techniques used in project management.  Monetary value analysis, including return on investment and the time value of money are key math familiarities for everyone’s personal finance as well as necessary job knowledge in today’s business world.

11.6.2  Monitor and Control Risks: Tools and Techniques

Risk audits and variance/trend analysis require math knowledge in graphing and formulas, such as with earned value.

Alignment with and support of current math learning standards (both Washington State and the new Core Learning Standards) in project management classes is a naturally relevant opportunity.  PMBOK learning for certification demands a certain degree of math facility.  But each student can learn why math at all levels (from  basic through algebra and even higher order, depending on the business or industry) is useful to them as individuals, as well as in their future jobs, through math in PMforCTE with supplemental math from finance, economics and quality management processes, tools and techniques.  

PMforCTE adds up…with a multiplier effect!!        

Jim Noeldner, PMforCTE 01-24-11

Math in PMforCTE

Project Management Body of Knowledge
PMBOK® Guide