Word Problems


Setup: A Teacher stands in front of a group of school children, writing on a chalk board. There are three or four children seated in desks, but only two (TOMMY and SALLY) have speaking parts. The kids are played by “adults” – and as the scene starts, they are doing typical bratty kid behaviors – thumping spit balls, sticking their tongues out, etc. to let the audience know they are children, not adults. The teacher reads from a test booklet.

Style:  Light-hearted.

Duration:  ~6-8min

Actors: 4-5 M/F

Teacher, Tommy, Sally, 2-3 other non-speaking parts.


TEACHER: Okay, children, settle down, settle down. We have a lot of work to do. Your third grade standardized exams are coming up in a few weeks, and the Math section is very important. Today, we are going to be reviewing word problems.

TOMMY: Ugh! I hate word problems!

SALLY: Ms. Hudson, Tommy thumped a spitball at Sarah!

TEACHER: Sally, we’ve talked about being a tattle-tale. If Sarah has a problem with Tommy, she should speak up.

TOMMY: That’s a fib! It was Martin. I was minding my own business…

TEACHER: (sternly) Children, that’s enough. Time for word problems. Write this down carefully as I read it aloud…
(The children settle in and prepare to write.)

TEACHER:(continues) “Mr. Smith and Miss Thompson are getting married in June. Mr. Smith has a job working as an electrician, earning $51,000 dollars a year. Miss Thompson is a part-time secretary, earning $17,500 a year. Once married, they will combine their salaries. What will be their total household income?”

SALLY: (raises her hand quickly) Ms. Hudson!

TEACHER: Yes, Sally?

SALLY: Why does the woman have to be the secretary? I think she should be the electrician. I like electricity. I could be an electrician.

TEACHER: I’m sure you would make a fine electrician, Sally. But I didn’t write the problem. Please just calculate the sum of their two incomes and…

TOMMY: You have to be smart to be an electrician. Girls are too stupid.

TEACHER: Tommy, Tommy. That is not nice. We don’t call anyone stupid. Now, back to the math problem.

SALLY: Ms. Hudson?

TEACHER: (sighs, growing frustrated) Yes, Sally?

SALLY: Can Miss Thompson be an electrician and a mommy?

TEACHER: (abrupt) Okay, kids. The answer is 68,500 dollars. Write that down. Next problem. (takes a breath) “After their marriage, Mr. Smith and Miss Thompson will need a place to live. Mr. Smith has suggested they move into a one-bedroom apartment in the city with a monthly rent of $975 dollars. Miss Thompson prefers that they purchase a small two-bedroom cottage in the suburbs with a monthly mortgage payment of $1240 dollars. What is the difference between the two options?”

SALLY: Ms. Hudson, will the cottage have a picket fence? My mommy says every home needs to have a picket fence. And a breakfast nook. And a bay window. Will the cottage have those things?

TOMMY: I think the apartment sounds cool! I bet there’s a swimming pool on the roof and a weight room, and … and… I bet it’s near the ballpark and the football stadium and the river and he can go fast in his speedboat on the weekend and … and…!

TEACHER: Tommy! Sally! Please quiet down. Your questions are completely irrelevant to the word problem.

TOMMY: Ms. Hudson, what does irrelevant mean?

SALLY: It means that boys are cavemen.


SALLY: Well, whenever my dad talks about watching football games at the stadium with his buddies, my mommy calls him a cave man.

TOMMY: Well, my dad says my mom is an ice queen.    Ms. Hudson, what’s an ice queen?

TEACHER: Enough. Remember, word problems! So, what we want to do here is to subtract 975 from 1240 and the result is the difference.

SALLY: Ms. Hudson?

TEACHER: –The answer is 265. (exasperated, quickly) Question three. “Mr. Smith works 55 hours a week and Miss Thompson works 22 hours a week. Calculate the average of the two work weeks.”

SALLY: 55 hours sounds like a lot of work. My mommy says my daddy works too much.

TOMMY: My daddy says that my mommy shops too much.

SALLY: My mommy says that daddy should stay home from work so they can talk more. Daddy never talks to her—

TOMMY: My dad never talks to my mom either! Hey, we have a lot in common!

(They giggle and start to focus on each other lovingly.)

TOMMY: I like your pigtails.

SALLY: I like your freckles.

TEACHER: Ugh, I hate word problems.