PD Discussion Topic: Problem Solving Strategies


Share your favorite problem solving strategies with everyone here.


I teach both Computer Science and Foundations of Technology classes. My approaches to these two classes are basically the same because in Foundations of technology and in my Exploring Science class students are:
Defining the Problem or Opportunity

  1. Identifying the Problem (This is where they define the problem and gather information
  2. Develop Possible Solutions (Isolate, Refine, and Detail Best Solution)
  3. Evaluating the Solution (Model the Best Solution, Select the Best Solution)
  4. Communicate the Solution (Interpret the Solution, Present the Solution for Approval
  5. Solution
    In Computer Science we tend to consider more the input and the output in order to justify the guesses that we make.

I use manipulatives, sketches, modeling, reverse technology.


Teaching both Computer Science and the CompTIA A+/Network+ courses at Ivy Tech, there are a few different problem solving models, which I use:
1: Identify the problem.
2: Establish a theory of probable cause. (Question the obvious.)
3: Test the theory to determine cause.
4: Establish a plan of action to resolve the problem and implement the solution.
5: Verify full system functionality and if applicable implement preventative measures.
6: Document findings, actions, and outcomes.

I also refer to the scientific method, to refresh what my students are learning in Biology.


I am such a visual learner and for students who might not know that about themselves, I try to model that for them. Draw out the table before coding it. Storyboard before you get started.


When I problem solve I like making lists and diagrams to help me visualize the scenario and to accurately plan a possible solution, without ruining the real deal.


I haven’t taught this unit yet, so I definitely am encouraged by the ideas posted here!


Favorite problem solving strategies:

  1. Evaluate/diagnose the problem
  2. Decide on possible solutions
  3. Select the best solution
  4. Implement solution
  5. Follow-up/update when needed

I have found it necessary to make sure the solution selected is the best solution, it is crucial to update or implement a new solution if necessary!


Software Engineering Problem Solving Strategy

  1. Requirements - what does the software need to do?
  2. Design - how will the problem be solved?
  3. Code - implement the solution.
  4. Test and debug - make sure the solution works and meets the requirements,


Read the problem out loud.
Ask yourself questions.
If no response ask you group.
Ask google… then ask the leader.


I really like what I read from the 6 Steps to Mindset Growth link. Especially the point about approaching the student nonchalantly and without any negative facial expression as it proves the iterative approach regarding the student who may be creating a problem in the classroom or can’t solve a problem-- if approached as mentioned earlier–it becomes a model for them as they see us work out the problem/opportunity with them.


To introduce the topic, I created a “problem” in the classroom. The students worked in groups to create a skit to solve the problem, accenting the 4 steps of problem solving.


I prefer to draw out or put problem in a table to not only understand the problem but provide a solution. When working with my students on a problem I model the think aloud method.


For me, problem solving as the following steps:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. How am I gonna solve it?
  3. Try to solve it.
  4. Can I solve it better? What worked, how can my solution be improved?


Again I use a daily project planner in my classrooms. Each week students have to set goals for the week. Each day students address how they are progressing to meet that goal. They have to:

  1. Define the problem
  2. Explore
  3. Reflect
  4. Imagine
  5. Play
  6. Transform


Understand the problem

Break down the problem into smaller test cases.

Try a solution.

Apply to larger case

  1. Identify the problem
  2. Explore possible solutions
  3. Implement problem solving
  4. Check your result


Early on in my teaching career I used DAPIC: Define, Assess, Plan, Implement, and Conclude.

In the last 4 years our school has become an IB school and we are asked to the MYP Design Cycle: Inquiring & Analyzing, Developing Ideas, Creating the Solution, and Evaluating.


When approaching a new problem, I follow these steps:

  1. Understand the Problem: What do you know? What do you want to know? What tools can help?
  2. Pick a Strategy: Choose how you will solve your problem given the constraints and given tools.
  3. Apply chosen strategy: Carry out your plan and follow your strategy.
  4. Reflect on the Result: Did it work? Does my answer make sense? Can I do it a better way?


I really love having the students working in a group to do this.

  1. They identify the problem.
  2. They each create a solution that they have to defend to the group.
  3. Share the solution with the group.
  4. Evaluate which of the solutions works best with the problem.
  5. Solve the problem as a group.


My Problem Solving Strategies include:

  • Read the problem multiple times
  • Restate the problem in my own words
  • Try to explain the problem to someone else
  • Ask clarifying questions to an expert
    -Approach the problem from multiple angles (Imagine it, draw it, act it out etc)
  • Google it