In the world, people encounter all sorts of problems- problems that have a clear-cut solution, problems that are beyond human understanding, problems that are complex but that can be solved with thought, skill and technique. To be able to channel this thought, skill, technique, people have to be trained and not just trained during the crisis, but from their very childhood.

Problem solving is the very foundation of evolution. From the ancient times, inventions came about due to a lack of something – essentially creating a problem that had to be solved to move further on. Thus, solving a problem helps adapt to a situation. Humans learn how to identify and solve problems from a very young age. The complexity and maturity of problems progresses as one ages.

Learning starts at home. The parents or caregivers are the very first teachers of children. Children learn and model by observing their caregivers. Parents need to let children see how they deal with disagreement, conflict and how they negotiate, in order for them to learn. Children will learn important life skills like assertiveness and even perhaps tonality of voice by observing their adults' response and ability to solve problems.

Since children spend most of their time in school, teachers must equip students with sufficient knowledge and ability to recognise and tackle problems. The earlier children are taught problem solving, the more prepared they are for bigger challenges.

How does problem solving in schools help children in the future?

With efficient problem-solving skills, the ability to identify problems improves. If these problems are viewed as opportunities to grow, children automatically will learn to broaden their understanding, while building confidence. Since the classroom is a safe and controlled environment, students can feel free to brainstorm their ideas toward possible solutions. Teachers will also be available for guidance. Children get to learn on trial and error and question and test newer solutions. It also leads to an overall development, increases cognitive abilities, confidence, social skills, and awareness.

Five ways to add problem solving to routine education

  • Teachers can take problem solving examples and techniques from authentic, real world situations that students are likely to face, to make it easier for students to understand and break down further. Sit with the process, take the time and effort. Each student learns differently and some take more time, so ensure that the teacher is patient and empathetic. 
  • Normalise struggle. Teachers must prepare students to be able to acknowledge struggle or trouble as part of normal life. Cushioning the blow benefits neither, and no one learns anything in the process. Ultimately students should be able to take up challenges and see it as an opportunity to grow. 
  • The focus of problem solving should be on understanding of a problem, and to come up with creative solutions, rather than to find the right answers. For this to occur, students should be encouraged to think in different ways. Shunning a student who thinks different from the teacher or other students can curb not only their thinking, but also their confidence to speak up. 
  • Engage students to work on projects, in groups. Have them debate a problem and see what they come up with. Students are most likely to benefit greatly from this type of hands on learning. Sharing ideas can broaden their views. They will learn interpersonal skills, how to communicate with others and how to be open to listening to contradictory views, without turning against each other. 
  • Asking contrasting questions to students can improve their analytical thinking. Don't just agree to their solution, make sure to ask questions in such a way that it will get them thinking and also give them a better idea of whether or not the solutions they come up with are truly fool proof.

Actively engaging in problem solving is bound to give any individual a few useful and practical skills like – Creative thinking, patience, level headedness, ability to work in a team, belief in oneself, ability to bounce back from a failure, leadership skills, critical thinking etc. All of these contribute to the overall growth and development of children.  

Thus, problem solving is a very important skill to acquire, and should be a part of classroom learning, for children as young as toddlers.