Lumberjack Math Introduction


This lesson provides your students with an opportunity to assist the foreman at the end of the logging season as he calculates income, expenses, and profit. Students will also prepare an end-of-season report to present to the lumber baron (teacher).

Essential Questions

  1. How many board feet have the jacks cut this year?
  2. How much money needs to be paid out to cover the camp’s expenses?
  3. Will the lumber baron be happy with the results?


Upon successful completion of this activity students will be able to:

  1. Calculate the income, expenses, and profit of their logging camp.
  2. Present their end-of-season financial report to the lumber baron (teacher).

Time Needed

One class period for the worksheets, 1 to 2 days to work on the presentation, 1 to 2 days to share presentations with the class.


Foreman videos

Helping the Foreman (optional lesson extension activities)


The Foreman is the boss, “the push,” in charge of the logging camp and the lumberjacks. He plays an important role in the camp, and has to make the big decisions, like deciding if the men should work at night because it is too warm during the day, or if they need to work on Sundays to guarantee the camp meets its logging goal.

The board foot goal of logging camps varied from season to season, and camp to camp. A logging camp’s expectations were typically based on timber cruiser reports compiled years before. A camp could earn a bonus from the company if it exceeded its board foot goal.


Bull of the woods: Domineering camp boss or foreman

“Can see” to “can’t see”: The time the lumberjacks worked. There were not a lot of clocks in the camp, so the lumberjacks worked from dawn to dusk, or from when they “can see” to when they “can’t see.” Short days in December meant less work, but longer days in March meant a longer workday.

Foreman: Sometimes referred to as “the push,” the foreman was the boss in charge of the logging camp and the lumberjacks. At $70 per month, the foreman was the highest paid person in camp.

Give ‘er snoose: Lumberjack slang for “work faster”

Log hungry and money mad: An owner who pushed to cut down a higher-than-average amount of trees

Lumber baron: A man with great wealth, power, and influence who owns the lumber, the camp, and often the land


Before class, divide the students into the six camps that were introduced in earlier lessons: Camps North Woods, Pine Hill, Rocky Ridge, Rustic Valley, Sawyer Grove, and Timber Lodge. Provide students with their own set of worksheets, so they can complete them individually.

1. As a class, watch the first video, Meet Our Contract, which introduces the projected income of the camp, and introduces the possibility of working Sundays to fulfill the contract.

Transcript | Watch video Meet Our Contract on YouTube

2. Have students complete the first worksheet, Calculating Income.

3. Watch the second video, Help the Inkslinger, which introduces the expense of paying the lumberjacks working at the camp.

Transcript | Watch video Help the Ink Slinger on YouTube

4. Have students complete the second worksheet, Calculating Expenses. The students will figure out how much they need to pay the lumberjacks.

5. On the third worksheet, Profit and Loss, have students use previous worksheets to calculate other expenses for the season, including the extra purchase of oats, and the cost of food for the jacks.

Included in this kit (following this procedure) is a template listing the standard number of lumberjacks employed in various jobs and corresponding wages from 1901. This template is available if you wanted to add or subtract any jobs from the camp specific worksheets.

6. View the third video, Report to the Big Boss, and have your students prepare a presentation for the lumber baron. The goal of the presentation is for students in each camp to share how they made decisions, and elaborate on their experiences as mathematicians in a logging camp. They should use the information they gathered through all of the lessons about expenses and decision-making in creating their presentation. The presentation should include an accounting of the profit or loss for the season, and explanations of expenses.

Transcript | Watch video Report to the Big Boss on YouTube

Lesson Extensions

(see student worksheet, Helping the Foreman):

Students who finish early can pick one of the activities on the Helping the Foreman worksheet. Encourage them to work with one or two other students to prepare a short presentation for the class.

Choices include:

  • Find the daily average amount of timber cut during each month (November through February) and make a line graph or bar graph of the data. Use the graph to predict the amount of timber that will be cut in March without working on Sundays.
  • Decide which job in the camp uses the most mathematics, and which job uses the most difficult mathematics; explain your reasoning.
  • Use an online inflation calculator to translate one camp’s income, expenses, and net income/loss into today’s dollars.
  • There were other expenses for a logging camp besides oats for the horses, food for the men, and wages. Make a list of some of the other items that would be needed during a full season.