Today, the same child shouted out in excitement, "Wow, this is fun!" Yesterday they learned to differentiate two mathematical concepts, area and perimeter, often confused by students. The repeated practice was to fix in them the correct operations for each, neat algebraic setting out and the use of correct units. The math itself was not complicated. It was a lesson about practice and developing right habits. Today I wanted them to apply these skills in complicated real life problem solving situations, so I set up a game of mathematical jeopardy; always a favorite activity in my class. This had always been my intended goal, and it was gratifying to walk among the students and see their solutions; units clearly displayed, correct operations, sensible number sentences, algebraic reasoning and diagrammatic explanations. There was an excited frenzied buzz in the air. They were successfully solving some very complex problems in all sorts of creative ways, but all built on the basic patterns practised the day before.
I don't think as teachers that we should shy away in fear from the "B" word. We do need to be critically aware of the purpose for our lessons. However, we are teachers not entertainers. Of course we need to find the balance, chronic boredom leads to students switching off, but the flip side of perpetual fun also has its down side. Students need to learn vital habits of mind, persistence and determination.