PROBLEM SOLVING – the most effective teaching method for student development

One of the most important goals in education should be to develop productive students who can independently and creatively solve different problems. Unfortunately, the traditional school curriculum and tasks often prevent students from fully developing problem-solving skills. This is precisely why the most successful teaching practices in the world use problem solving.

What is problem solving?

Instead of cramming formulas, facts and dates, student who use problem solving apply their thinking skills to solve different types of problems. The best results are made when students work in groups and try out different solutions together.

Problem solving consists of:

creative thinking (generating ideas)
critical thinking (evaluating ideas)

Unlike regular tasks and tests, there is no single solution in problem solving. It includes a combination of different approaches and relates to different learning styles, which is why it’s perfectly compatible with the multiple intelligence development method.

About problem solving

The learning process based on problem solving requires students to simultaneously use their cognitive capacities, their creative and critical thinking skills and their communication and teamwork abilities. This is what makes the results achieved through problem solving remarkable.

The 6 steps of problem solving

When completing problem-solving tasks, students usually go through 6 stages:

  1. Stop, take a look and think. The students get to know the problem, seek useful information and clues and differentiate between what’s important and what’s not.
  2. Collecting information. The students ask questions in order to collect and connect all the necessary information.
  3. Brainstorming. The students propose different solutions, compare them and look for the best one.
  4. Choosing the best solution. The students evaluate different solutions and opt for the best one.
  5. Action. Based on everything they have done, the students create a plan and implement the chosen solution.
  6. Assessment. At the very end, the students evaluate their results.

During each stage, the students gain knowledge, skills and independence in problem solving, all the while developing their teamwork abilities.

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10 reasons why problem solving is


Research has shown that a problem-solving-oriented approach to teaching produces extraordinary results.

Students who applied a problem-solving approach to learning in a group setting performed better in a test in which they were supposed to use their knowledge in a new context than students who learned individually using the traditional learning method.

1. Students make progress in a group setting

Through a collaborative effort, each child, based on his/her knowledge and talent, suggests different approaches and strategies for solving a particular problem. This way, the children encourage each other and develop sophisticated strategies and problem-solving approaches.

2. An interesting method that accelerates and facilitates learning

Whereas in the traditional approach children tackle similar questions and tasks, in problem solving they deal with problems that are relevant to their real life and interests, while the number and unique nature of the problems further enhance their attention and satisfaction. In addition, the questions are interesting and require detective work from the children who can dedicate themselves more to learning thanks to the game-like elements of the method.

3. Acquiring knowledge through understanding

Due to the fact that in problem solving children apply a proactive approach to learning whereby they critically evaluate facts and connect them in a creative fashion trying to find a solution-yielding approach, the knowledge gained through this method is easily remembered and applicable in real life.

4. Developing a positive approach to learning

Children enjoy seeking solutions to problems and are often so dedicated that they continue solving problems in their spare time. All this enables students to have a greater understanding of the subject matter and develop a positive approach to learning.

5. Students become little explorers/detectives

Problem solving allows children to adopt an approach similar to that used by scientists in research. This way, the students become “little explorers”, which enables them to have a more comprehensive understanding of a subject. Simply put, the students feel that the subject is exciting and that they are contributing with their approach.

6. Strengthening creativity and flexibility

Problem solving enables students to explore many ideas, thus developing their creativity. When solving problems, children propose different approaches and strategies, many of which are surprising and creative. What’s particularly important is that great ideas can come from children who are not considered to be the best students in a particular problem-solving subject.

7. Gaining transferable skills

Skills gained through problem solving are easily transferable to other fields. Regardless of whether one is solving problems in math, logic, physics or some other subject, the general principle can be applied to different subjects and situations.

8. Developing communication and teamwork skills

Solving problems in a group setting through communication and cooperation improves understanding and generates new ideas. Collaborative work develops the key skills for academic and professional success, such as learning, communication and teamwork.

9. Useful way to gain different skills using modern technology

Problem solving teaches children how to use modern technology for educational purposes. Modern gadgets allow students to solve complex problems in math, logic, physics and other subjects. This prevents children from perceiving technology solely as a source of entertainment; it makes them much more than passive consumers, allowing them to be constructive and creative.

10. Building confidence and encouraging introverted children

Group work and the option to have multiple solutions are a good way to move introverted and reticent children out of their comfort zone and encourage them to work with their friends and build confidence.

Problem solving enables students to:

  • find information
  • generate new knowledge
  • make decisions

All of this makes them curious, independent, proactive and ready for lifelong development.

Problem solving is a comprehensive approach to education

Problem tasks allow students to gain specific and conceptual knowledge in one or more subjects and the skills enabling them to use this knowledge accordingly.

Thanks to problem solving, students gain key skills necessary for academic and professional success.

Creative thinking (generating and perceiving new ideas)
Critical thinking (assessing, filtering and evaluating facts)
Productive thinking (a synthesis of the creative and critical approach)
Cooperation and communication (exchanging opinions and teamwork)

Unlike traditional tasks which usually test one student quality, a good problem-solving approach develops multiple intelligences by improving all aspects of the students’ personality:

Brainfinity Cognitive (generates new knowledge and skills)

Brainfinity Affective (has a positive impact on motivation, confidence and emotions)

Brainfinity Physical (develops different physical abilities)

Brainfinity Character (develops kindness, empathy and moral principles)

Problem solving teaches students how to find solutions and make decisions. These skills are essential for academic, professional and personal development.

How to apply problem solving in your classroom?

An efficient strategy for teaching problem solving consists of two steps:

1. Defining goals (the skills and ideas we want our children to adopt)

2. Creating instructions (activities allowing you to achieve your goals)

In other words, you need to determine WHAT and HOW to teach.

The teachers who opt for the problem-solving approach will provide their students with skills and knowledge, awaken their interest in lessons and turn them into dedicated examiners. Organizing problem-solving lessons requires teachers to step out of their comfort zone; in return, they will expand their teaching competencies, become modern lecturers and convey invaluable lifelong knowledge to their students.

Brainfinity – a unique problem solving competition in the region

Due to the numerous benefits problem solving brings to teaching, we decided to create this competition. It’s unique and the only one of its kind in the region.

Primary school students in years 5 through 8 create teams, solve problems and propose solutions. A jury comprising top-notch professors and education experts evaluate the answers and the best teams qualify for the finals where they face new challenges.