Taking Back The F-Word

My pet peeve these days is that everyone assumes that when describing lessons, the word “fun”  implies a crappy lesson lacking depth that involves running around, searching for things, spinning endlessly on the spot or solving a murder mystery.


It shouldn’t! It never did before those silly ideas! I’m taking back the F-Word. My lessons are fun. At least to me! My lessons are GREAT fun. But students don’t leave their seats. I don’t wear strange outfits, or role play sinister villains. I just ask great questions that make students think. Isn’t that fun?! YES IT IS. If you don’t think it’s fun, then tough. I’m not a clown.

Here’s an example of how I consider questions on area being ‘fun’ :

Find the Area :

Fun Factor… 1/10

Depth of Understanding : 1/10


I’d probably ask a couple of these to start off with. Just to make sure students had even a single nuance of an idea about area.

These questions essentially ask : Can you mindlessly apply a formula to a question that only provides the numbers you need to put into the formula? The only exception is perhaps the top right triangle, which gives a single useless length.

Find the Area 2 – Picking out the right information

Fun Factor : 2 / 10

Depth of Understanding : 3/10


This is more fun. F-U-N. I have to at least think a teeny bit here. Give students ALL the lengths. (I haven’t put numbers in, i’m just talking about generalities here. And I’m lazy today.)

At least this example will show me if students genuinely know what the height / length / base / whatever actually is. I bet you’ll find students who just times everything together, because that’s all you have to do with the first question type, so THAT’S WHAT YOU DO, RIGHT? No. Use your brain, scarecrow.

Find the Area 3 – Students write their own challenge questions for each other

Fun Factor :6 / 10

Depth of Understanding : 5 / 10


*Make sure the student works out the answer before giving it to another student!

Find the Area 4 – Reverse Engineering

Fun Factor : 5 / 10

Depth of Understanding : 6 / 10



Find the Area 5 – Finding the Errors

Fun Factor : 5 / 10

Depth of Understanding : 6 / 10


*Be mindful that they annotate these, you don’t want erroneous examples all over their books!

Find the Area 6 – Investigative Super Coolio

Fun Factor : 7 / 10

Depth of Understanding : 6 / 10


Find the Area 7 – Estimating the Answers

Fun Factor : 5 / 10

Depth of Understanding : 6 / 10 – 9 / 10  depending on how hard you make it (see triangle question!)


Find the Area 8 – Puzzle Based Area Awesomeness

Fun Factor : 8 / 10

Depth of Understanding : 7 / 10




Find the Area 9 – Deriving the information you need

Fun Factor : 6 / 10

Depth of Understanding : 7 / 10

Find the area of these shapes:




Find the Area 10 – Less Obvious Reverse Engineering

Fun Factor : 8 / 10

Depth of Understanding : 9 / 10




Find the Area 11 – What the hell am I supposed to do?!

Fun Factor : 10 / 10

Depth of Understanding : 11 / 10

geoboard problem 1

area prob

These are amazingly fun. There. I’ve taken our word back. Screw you treasure hunt.



5 thoughts on “Taking Back The F-Word

  1. Brilliant post. Thanks for sharing your ideas.
    As a structure for the basis of a school curriculum, I particularly like the ladder of increasing complexity. We should be able to expect a Y7 to try hard with (1)-(6). If we were to introduce Pythagoras and circles to them, they may be able to go even higher.
    Have you invented similar ladders for other aspects of mathematics eg. Number operations, Algebra?

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