Problem Solving

We face problems every day – from determining what to wear in the morning, what to pack for lunch, communicating a confusion about an assignment, or dealing with an individual that might be getting on your nerves. But how do we learn skills to solve problems? What skills do we need to solve problems? How do we increase our problem solving skills?

Let’s start with discussing what it means to solve a problem. Problem solving is defined by Clutter-Free Classroom as identifying a problem, why the problem occurred, and brainstorming solutions to the problem. So the first step to any type of problem solving is to identify the problem. Identifying a problem requires you to think about what is upsetting you or others around you. 

The second step is identifying the size of that problem. Understanding the size of a problem allows us to understand if we are over or under reacting and how we should respond and attempt to solve the problem. A problem can be anything from very tiny – forgetting to eat breakfast or leaving your water bottle at home – all the way to giant – a family member passed away or losing a job. Remember that what one person sees as a problem, may not be a problem for another individual.  SEL Space explains that understanding the size of the problem can help students recognize their support systems, be more resilient, and regulate their emotions in future problems. SEL Space and Bright Futures Counseling provides a few extra resources on how to utilize and implement “size of the problem” activities. 

Once you acknowledge the problem and understand the size of the problem, you can start thinking about solving the problem. This article by VeryWell Family notes that it is important to come up with multiple solutions to the problem, because sometimes one solution may not work as well as originally thought. The article also notes that it is important to remember that solutions do not always need to be good solutions, but they help our brain start thinking about how we might be able to solve the problem. Another important aspect of problem solving is using both creative and critical thinking. Scholastic notes that when brainstorming problem solutions it is important to look at all possible solutions using multiple thought processes (critical thinking using scientific methods and creative thinking describing all solutions, good, bad, or imaginary). Combining ways of thinking to solve problems can help teach children that there’s not always a single or simple solution to a problem.

Using different thought processes are not the only skills needed to solve problems though. According to Indeed, it is also important to use active listening, communication, and decision making skills to help solve a problem, especially when solving a problem with another person. For example if two people are in an argument, it is important for each individual to listen to each perspective, communicate the problem calmly and clearly, and then make a decision on how to solve this argument. 

Now that we understand how we can solve problems, how do we teach problem solving skills to our children and students? Practice, practice, practice! You can help students practice problem solving – according to Clutter Free Classroom – by reading problem solving books, teaching vocabulary associated with problem solving, and always integrate problem solving techniques across materials.


We hope this information helps you practice your own problem solving skills!