Problem Solving For High School Students

Guiding Students to Be Independent Problem-Solvers in STEM Classrooms

When dealing with a pandemic, encouraging pupils to become independent problem solvers can be a difficult endeavour. This is especially true when using virtual classrooms. Some students struggle with issue solving because it is not obvious to them, and they need to learn how to approach problem solving from a more general perspective. Teachers, despite their expertise, frequently fail to see that there are implicit skills and ways of thinking that are not immediately apparent or known to our pupils.


1. Demonstrate the hidden reasoning that goes into fixing a problem. When I’m trying to figure out a problem, I talk aloud about every facet of what I’m doing. In fact, I over-explain everything, providing justification for every step. I will include descriptions such as “OK, I am going to seek for any integers that I can cancel” when tackling a dimensional-analysis problem, for example. When I see a number in the numerator and another number in the denominator that have a common factor, I know I can cancel or lower the number.”

I will even include vulnerable times and model the fact that I don’t always know what to do, but I will also outline my options and the decision-making process that I use to make decisions. I make mistakes on purpose from time to time, and then employ procedures to check my work in order to remedy my mistakes. It is critical that we directly demonstrate this internal debate to pupils in order to model problem-solving.

2. Encourage students to speak up during problem-solving sessions. I make it a point to never answer problems for pupils, even if they specifically request that I do. This includes teaching complete classes as well as dealing with students in small groups or one-on-one settings. I ask a lot of questions to the pupils, and I use the Socratic technique to do so. For example, “What do we do next?” or “What are our possibilities for what we can do?” are both straightforward questions to ask.

During a classroom observation, I was told that I asked more than 72 questions in a span of 10 minutes, which I found to be quite impressive. In this exercise, the students practise asking themselves the kinds of questions that will guide them through the problem-solving process. Many students report that they could hear my voice asking them the same questions over and over again after the first test, but what they’re truly learning are advanced problem-solving skills that they may apply in a variety of situations in the future.

By asking questions such as “Why do we do that?” we can help our clients gain a better knowledge of their situation. Each stage in the problem-solving process is supported by rationale and value, which helps students to further reinforce their comprehension of the topics and abilities being taught.

3. Include a discussion on issue-solving strategies for each problem. Teachers have an instinctive ability to plan difficulties. Students, particularly those who are new to the subject, frequently do not understand how to plan a problem. When they look at a problem, they perceive it as strange and are unsure of where to begin. They have given up.

According to research, determining how to tackle an issue is a critical step for novice learners. Provide students with a structure or routine to follow. It can contain the following tasks: identifying and writing down the data with units for a problem, identifying equations to be used, identifying and writing down what they’re trying to solve for, drawing a relevant vector diagram, and brainstorming possible strategies for solving the problem.

4. Put the emphasis on the process rather than the end solutions. When we are checking individual work, we frequently inquire about the final solutions. How about instead of asking who has the answer, we ask who has the approach to solve the problem? When students ask for accurate answers, it’s only natural for teachers to respond as soon as possible. Instead, we should respond with helpful questions that will aid them in the process of figuring out how to solve the difficulties on their own.

The final step is often skipped entirely, and I simply ask whether everyone is in agreement on the steps before moving on. When several techniques are offered forth, the dialogue is more beneficial because we can compare and contrast the merits of each way. I want the students to double-check our work, rather than simply looking at a simple solution at the end of the problem to confirm their own work, to demonstrate their understanding. This directs students’ attention away from the end of the task and toward the intricacies of the processes, rather than to the finish of the job for the ultimate solution. Furthermore, grading can include marks for the stages taken rather than the ultimate result.

5. Make problem solving a part of the curriculum. Following the completion of problems, students can develop their own problem-solving approach, which they can record on a note card. Students should be asked to respond, and you should develop a class policy that you can post on your learning management system or display in your real classroom environment. Increase the size of the scaffolding by using a two-column technique. Students display their work in the left column, while in the right column, they explain and justify what they accomplished and why they did it. Students will be forced to consider their behaviours as a result of the act of adding a rationale. Improved connection between conceptual concepts and the problem-solving process itself will result as a result of this.

The tactics listed above are only a few examples of how to enable your pupils to consciously think about problem-solving from a general perspective rather than just concentrating on specific problems and memorising steps. There are a variety of approaches that can be used to model and teach problem-solving skills that will enable students to think about the process directly.