Ideas for using problem solving activities
- Consider changing the context, the names of characters, or the numbers in the problem to make it more suitable for your class.
Click to download a collection of templates to support you to create your own versions of problems.
- Captivate your students (hook them into the problem) with a creative introduction.
- Having shared the problem, have your students retell in their own words what the problem is asking them to find out.
To experience success a student must first fully understand the problem.
- Make suitable materials available. Many students solve a problem and demonstrate their solution using materials.
- Be clear yourself about exactly what you want your students to learn from their problem solving experience.
Make this explicit to your students. (Finding a solution is only part of the learning).
- Have key supporting questions ready to ask your students as they work on the problem:
Getting started While working on the problem At the finish
- Has anyone seen a problem like this before?
- What are the important ideas in this problem?
- Can you rephrase the problem in your own words?
- What is this problem asking you to find out?
- What information has been given?
- What conditions apply?
- Can you guess what the answer might be?
- What strategies might you use to get started?
- Which of these ideas are worth pursuing?
- Tell me what you are doing?
- Why (how) did you think of that?
- Why are you doing this?
- What will you do with the result of that work when you’ve got it?
- Why is this idea better than that one?
- You’ve been trying that idea for 5 minutes. Is it time to try something else?
- Can you justify that step?
- Have you answered the question?
- Have you considered all possible cases?
- Have you checked your solution?
- Does the answer look reasonable?
- Is there another answer?
- Is there another solution?
- Can you explain your solution to the class?
- Is there another way to solve the problem?
- Can you generalise or extend the problem?
- Conclude a problem solving session with your students by identifying important learning and together generalize this to other situations.
- The problems are set within full lessons which outline a suggested teaching sequence. These are guidelines only.