Online Math Center

Learn Math with Detective Stories

Cross-discipline learning is an integrative educational strategy that motivates children to use critical thinking and associative-studying tactics. Do you think that children can learn math through literature? This article will show you exactly how by integrating detective stories in developing math abilities. 

The most famous detective stories

 

It’d be a surprising thing for someone not to have heard about Sherlock Holmes. The mastermind of solving mysteries, Sherlock Holmes is the inspiration for many detective stories and geniuses. Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the character Sherlock Holmes and author of his adventures was inspired by his professor in the arts of logic and deduction, both highly important in solving mathematical problems. 

 

Possibly as famous as Sherlock Holmes, the author Agatha Christie has created in her detective stories, great mathematical minds like Hercule Poirot, or witty old ladies like Miss Marple. 

Agatha Christie’s main characters often have to use mathematical operations in order to solve crimes and save the day. 

 

How did these genius minds of deduction use mathematics in order to solve mysteries? 

Solving mysteries with math

Sherlock Holmes

 

In the short story “The Musgrave Ritual”, Sherlock Holmes has to detect the position of the shadow of an elm tree that was cut down 10 years before the story, in order to find out the culprit. So, the elm tree was presumed to be 64 feet. Sherlock Holmes used two lengths of a fishing road which had 6 feet, at the spot of the former elm tree. Thus, he realized that the shadow cast by the rod was 9 feet. Therefore, a tree of 64 feet, would cast a shadow of….how many feet? Can you calculate? 

 

Let’s use the rule of the three:

6 feet (fishing rod) ………………………………… 9 feet (shadow of rod)

64 feet (elm tree) …………………………………  X feet (shadow of elm tree)

 

X = ? 

 

Formula:  64 x 96 = 5766 = 96. 



Answer: the shadow casted by the cut-down elm tree was 96 feet. 

 

Curious about other complicated math operations in Sherlock Holmes? The producers of the newest film “A Game of Shadows” compiled a mindbreaking mathematical code that Sherlock had to break in order to stop the villain, prof. Moriarity. Check it out online.

 

The book “Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” is filled with mathematical allusions, so it is fun to read and detect what are the math formulas this detective genius uses in order to save the day. 

 

Agatha Christie’s heroes

 

The most interesting aspect of Agatha Christie’s detective stories is to try and find out the villain by yourself. This matter has become such a challenge for researchers that they actually came up with a formula in order to solve all the mysteries in Christie’s stories.  

 

The formula created by enthusiast researchers is the following:

 

 k (r, δ, θ, c) = f { rk +δ+θP,M, c (3 ≤ 4.5 } , where

 

k – is the villain, 

r-  is the relationship between the villain and the victim, 

δ – is the means of transport relevant to the crime; 

θ – method of the villain

c – chapter of where the villain is mentioned; 

 

f – female

P – Poirot

M – Marple 

The only way to test if this formula is correct, you really have to pick up an Agatha Christie story and read it. 

Math skills we practice

 

Math is not only a set of numeric problems to which we try to find the correct answer. Mathematics is actually the practice of the mind. Fictional genius minds like Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, or Miss Marple show that applied to real life, mathematics helps us make logical deductions, solve mysteries, and be quite brilliant.  



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