Mastering Math: A Sherlock Holmes Problem Solving Mystery

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Mastering Math: A Sherlock Holmes Problem Solving Mystery

An Easy-to-Use Math Play
for Elementary and Middle School

Grades 2-6
30 minutes
(2 or more Book/CD sets @ $30 each)

In Stock.

Includes script, teacher's guide, and audio CD. The CD has all the songs recorded twice: first with singing, so you and your students can learn the songs, and then without voices so your students can perform without us singing along.

And if you ever have any trouble or questions, you can contact us at any time for help.


Order Now!

For individual teachers/classes:
Book/CD - $39.95 for 1, $30/ea for 2+
Hint: order 1 for each teacher. (details)

For 3+ teachers or whole schools:
Site License - $75.00
Comes with 3 copies of book/CD plus unlimited photocopying rights (details)
School/site name:

Musical extras:
Piano/Guitar Score - $9.95 (details)
Extra/Replacement CD - $9.95

Or order by phone, fax or PO

This 30-minute musical play can be done as a complete play, skits, reader's theater, or you can just sing songs. No music or drama experience needed!

This is the story of how Sherlock Holmes became a detective! Well, actually it's the story of how he learned to solve problems, which allowed him to become a detective. Sherlock is terrified of numbers, but in the course of solving a Top Secret mystery, he learns six problem-solving strategies—guess and check, draw a picture, draw a chart, look for a pattern, work backwards, and act it out—plus the four steps to solve any problem. Your students will learn right along with Sherlock and after the show may even choose a career in private detection.

Key Concepts

  • Four steps to problem-solving
  • Problem-solving techniques:
    • Guess and Check
    • Make a Table or Chart
    • Work Backwards
    • Act It Out
    • Draw a Picture
    • Find a Pattern

Mastering Math is a great complement to your curriculum resources in elementary and middle school math. And, like all of our plays, this show can be used to improve reading, vocabulary, reading comprehension, performance and music skills, class camaraderie and teamwork, and numerous social skills (read about it!) -- all while enabling students to be part of a truly fun and creative experience they will never forget!

Author: Ron Fink (Composer) and John Heath (Book and Lyrics)
ISBN: 978-1-886588-30-1
© 2004 Bad Wolf Press, LLC

"Bravo! We just received the hot-off-the-press Mastering Math script and CD. It is fabulous – witty, catchy and sure to be a hit with kids and parents alike! In the past three years, my kiddos have put on Aesop’s Fables, The Incredible Westward Movement, Tall Tales, The Weather Show, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Little Red Riding Hood. Parents tell me their kids remember these plays for years and continue to sing the songs. (Our favorite is Sodbusters!)

I can’t wait to get started on Mastering Math. My kids will be able to remember and use the problem solving strategies much more easily by putting it to music. I wasn’t sure how you could make a math play and you’ve far exceeded my expectations.

Thank you for the outstanding curriculum-based plays. Their reasonable cost makes it easy to use them in the classroom. The kids and I love them and each year’s group looks forward to finding out which plays we’re going to do.

Keep up the great work you do!"

---Lee Ann Jackson, Teacher (4th grade), McAuliffe Elementary, Sammamish, WA

"The students are still taking about the six strategies in problem solving."

---Susan Hoffman, Teacher (6th grade), Jacks Valley Elementary, Carson City, NV (Read the review in Susan's local paper here.)

"Just a quick note to let you know that my sixth grade class and I loved Mastering Math. We performed it for the school on Math Discovery Day, and then again for the parents. It reinforced in a delightful way the problem-solving strategies we've been emphasizing since the primary grades. As the year progressed, there were occasions when we'd be doing a word problem, and students would spontaneously break out in the song from the Musical that focused on the particular strategy that they were now finding quite useful. Mastering Math made the problem-solving strategies stick with the kids in a way that nothing had done previously. Thank you!

---Debi Madden, Teacher (6th grade), Sumner/Danbury Elementary, Claremont, CA

"We just finished performing the Mastering Math Musical. It was a huge success and a crowd favorite. This is the fifth year I have used your Musicals and every year we perform them they are loved by the students and parents. They are already asking what play we will do next! Thanks to your creative talents, so many teachers and students who would have never taken such risks in drama are now stars."

---Christine Olin, Teacher (5th grade) Castaic Elementary, Castaic, CA

"It is hard to find good plays and musicals that are at the right level for primary kids. I strongly recommend this play. It's fun, it engages the kids and it has some great music". We loved it."

---Bruce Ferrington, Teacher, Radford College, Canberra, Australia (read his blog post!)

"They really enjoyed the songs, and they're great to use when we're actually doing problem solving."

---Joanne Olson, 4th Grade Teacher, Park Ridge Elementary, Stafford, VI



Flexible casting from 11-40 students.
Use as many Bicycle Store Clerks,School Kids, etc. as desired.
One student can easily play several roles if needed. Note that all roles
can be played by either boys or girls; see our comments on page 31
of the Teacher's Guide.


This is the first one-third of the script:


Sherlock Holmes
Dr. Watson
Bicycle Store Clerks
Three Sisters
Passersby School Kids
Math Teachers
and a CHORUS comprised of all students who are not
playing roles on stage at the time.

This show also requires the use of an overhead projector
in several scenes, and we recommend that one student be
chosen to put the transparencies in place at the
appropriate moments. (See pages 49-53.)

(Class faces audience and sings)

Song 1 - Listen now!

This is a show about Sherlock Holmes
And how he got his start
This is a show about Sherlock Holmes
And how he got so smart.

This is the story of Sherlock Holmes
And his first mystery
This is the story of Sherlock Holmes
So sit back and you’ll see—

He’s mastering math
Mastering math
It’s just a matter of finding the path
Mastering math
He learns more each day
He’s problem solving the problems away.

He’s mastering math
Mastering math
It’s just a matter of finding the path
Mastering math
He learns more each day
He’s problem solving the problems away.

(SINGERS can lean left and then right, or wave their
hands to each side, as they sing the following lines.
Make it silly!)


He’s mastering math
Mastering math
It’s just a matter of finding the path
Mastering math
He learns more each day
He’s problem solving the problems away.
He’s solving the problems away.

(SHERLOCK HOLMES is walking around a room looking
at things through what should be a large magnifying glass.
WATSON enters.)

WATSON: Ah, there you are Holmes. What are you examining?

HOLMES: Come over here, Dr. Watson. I’ve discovered
something most peculiar. Everything I see through this magnifying
glass looks the same.

WATSON: How odd. May I have a look?

HOLMES (hands it over to WATSON, who begins to look):
No matter where I point it, I see the same thing. It’s like some
silly face is staring back at me.

WATSON: This isn’t a magnifying glass. It’s a mirror.

HOLMES: It is?

WATSON: Take a look.
(Hands mirror to HOLMES, who looks into it)

HOLMES: Aaaach. By Jove, you’re right! I never knew I
had such large nostrils. It’s horrifying.

WATSON: Nonsense,
Holmes. You have perfectly normal nostrils. Delightful nostrils.
British nostrils!

HOLMES: Don’t try to cheer me up. I’m just not getting the
hang of this detective stuff.

WATSON: You’ll make a wonderful detective. You just need
more practice. What do you say we do some word problems?

HOLMES: No, please, Watson. You know what happens.

WATSON: Just one. Really, you can do it. Here. A train
leaves London going west at forty miles an hour. Another train
leaves on the same track from fifty miles west of London going
30 miles an hour. How long is it before they hit each other.

(HOLMES is silent. He looks as if he is thinking deeply—
or in great pain—but he is not moving. After a few seconds,
WATSON speaks.)

WATSON: Holmes? Holmes?

(HOLMES passes out, collapsing on the floor.
WATSON revives him.)

WATSON: Wake up. Come on, let me help you up.

HOLMES: It’s no use. No one will hire me as a detective.
I’ll never learn how to solve problems:

Song 2 - Listen now!

I, I just want to solve a mystery
What a great detective I could be
But when problems have a number
I cannot get any dumber.

CLASS (suddenly sitting up straight and facing audience) :
Woh oh oh oh oh oh
Woh oh oh oh oh oh

I, I just want to solve a mystery
Solve a famous crime or two or three
But my brain just stops and fidgets
When I have to work with digits.

I don’t know what to do
I haven’t got a clue.
My palms get cold and wet
My eyeballs, my eyeballs, my eyeballs start to sweat.

I, I just want to solve a mystery
What a great detective I could be
But when problems have a number
I cannot get any dumber.

I don’t know what to do
I haven’t got a clue.
My palms get cold and wet
My eyeballs, my eyeballs, my eyeballs start to sweat.
My eyeballs, my eyeballs, my eyeballs start to sweat.

(Three CLIENTS enter.)

CLIENT #1: Is one of you Sherlock Holmes?

HOLMES: I am. Unless you’ve come to repossess my hat.
In that case… (points to WATSON) …HE is.

CLIENT #2: We need your help, Mr. Holmes.

HOLMES: You do? Are you sure?

CLIENT #1: There has been a crime.

CLIENT #3 (dramatically): Oh, the horror!

CLIENT #1 (trying to ignore #3, addressing HOLMES):
And we need you to solve it.

CLIENT #2: We work for the King of Plutopia. A Top
Secret Document has been stolen from the royal vault.

CLIENT #3: Oh, the horror!

CLIENT #2 (giving #3 a look, then to HOLMES):
And we must get it back immediately.

HOLMES: What’s in the document?

CLIENT #2: How should we know?

ALL THREE CLIENTS (shout): It’s a secret!

CLIENT #1: The thief left behind a clue.
(producing a large key)
A key to a safe-deposit box in the Bank of London.

WATSON: Why don’t you just go to the box and open it?

CLIENT #2: There’s no number on the key. And there
are thousands of boxes.

CLIENT #3: Oh, the horror!

CLIENT #1 (#1 and #2 stare at #3):
But also the thief left a note with a puzzle telling us the
number of the box.

HOLMES: Did you say a puzzle? Oh, the horror!

CLIENT #2: Here’s what the note says. (reading)
“The prince is now 11 years old. The king is 35.
How old was the prince when his father was four times older?”

(HOLMES has that pained look again)

WATSON: Holmes?

(HOLMES passes out. WATSON helps him revive.)

CLIENT #1: Can you help us?

HOLMES: Are you crazy? It could take months to solve. Years, even.

CLIENT #2: Why don’t you try the Guess and Check method?

CLIENT #3: Oh, how fun! I guess 6.

CLIENT #1: It’s not 6.

CLIENT #3: How do you know?

CLIENT #1: I just know.

CLIENT #2: The Guess and Check method can help us figure
it out. Let’s try some numbers.

(The problem appears on the overhead. As each number is
“tried out,” we see it on the overhead.)

Song 3 - Listen now!

Take a shot
Try a 10
That’s too high?
Then try again.

CLIENT #3: How ’bout six?

CLIENT #1: That’s too low.

CLIENT #3: Not a six?

CLIENT #1: I told you so!

Guess and check
Guess and check
Don’t use hunt and peck
Grope and hope leaves things a wreck
Zero in with guess and check.

Try a nine
Let’s explore
Still too high?
Then try once more.

How ’bout eight?
Take a look
Hey it works
You’ll catch the crook!

Guess and check
Guess and check
Don’t use hunt and peck
Grope and hope leaves things a wreck
Zero in with guess and check.

HOLMES: The answer is eight! Amazing. Come on, Watson.
Let’s get to the bank and check out safe-deposit box
number eight.
We’ll be back in a flash with the document.

(CLIENTS exit. HOLMES and WATSON walk across stage,
and then back to where the BANKERS have entered.)

(This concludes the first one-third of the script.)

Sample Songs

Click on the song name to hear samples. Please note that internet song samples have low fidelity and rest assured that the CDs we sell sound much better! (This player requires Flash. If you have any trouble hearing the samples, just contact us for help.)

Full Song List

1. “He’s Mastering Math”
2. “I Just Want to Solve a Mystery”
3. “Guess and Check”
4. “Work Backwards”
5. “Draw a Table”
6. “Act It Out”
7. “A Picture’s Worth 1000 Words”
8. “Find A Pattern”
9. “Four Steps”
10. “He’s Mastering Math” (reprise)

Common Core and Other National Standards


  • Common Core Mathematic Standards for Mathematical Practices: 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th

Language Arts

Fine Arts

  • National Music Standards 1, 2, 6, 7, and 8 for K-4th, Standard 1 for 5th-8th
  • National Theater Standards 2, 3, 6, 7, and 8 for K-4th, Standards 2 and 6 for 5th-8th
  • National Dance Standards 1 and 2 for K-4th


safe-deposit box
chocolate mousse
drat (slang)
take a shot
hunt and peck
zero in
"put the cart before the horse"
"the play’s the thing"

Problem Solving Concepts
Four steps to problem solving
Guess and check
Make a table or chart
Work backwards
Act it out
Draw a picture
Find a pattern