One of the most common requests I get is for “real world problems”. I, too, once sought examples from the fabled “real world.” **But when we aim for real world problems, we’re assuming that these are somehow better problems.**

But they’re not! Real world problems are often… pretty dull and annoying.

Would you rather…

- work through a Sudoko puzzle or do your taxes?
- read a legal contract or read
*Harry Potter*? - play a card game or figure out your cell phone bill?

**Many “real world problems” are simply the worst!** We often *hire others* to handle these problems for us so we can enjoy *non-real-world activities!* The real world is mundane and tedious. In fact, we spend a lot of money to escape the real world.

So let’s simply aim for “interesting” rather than “real world.”

When I put a Word Ladder on the board, kids didn’t complain that it’s not “real world.” **They dove in because they found it engaging!**

When we tried to figure out what The Little Prince would think about about Claudia, from *The Mixed Up Files*, **it was fun because it was so far from the “real world.”**

When I present this question in a workshop, everyone murmurs in delight, even though it’s ridiculously fantastic:

How big of a lawn would you need so that when you finished mowing you’d have to start over because the grass has grown?

Likewise, this prompt always gets a reaction, not because it’s realistic, but because it’s *so darn interesting:*

How long would it take to drink an Olympic-sized pool with a straw?

Are any of these “real world”? Nope. But they’re highly engaging because they’re interesting and out brains simply *love* figuring interesting problems out.

Dan Meyer calls this Real World vs Real Work. Is the work interesting? Then it doesn’t matter how real-world it is.

So don’t be tricked when students ask “when will I ever use this?” They’re really begging for something that’s simply interesting.