How to Develop Problem-Solving Skills in Students

How to Develop Problem-Solving Skills in Students

This article has been written by Lydia McClelland, a VCE French, Music Theory, Literature & VCE English Tutor at Learnmate. If you’re interested in private tutoring from Lydia then please check out her page here.


Problem-solving skills – the term has become something of a cliché. It is used by anyone from students trying to pad out their résumés, to recruiters, to inspirational speakers trying to sell tickets to leadership seminars. Let’s unpack the term and what it could mean for you. What does it actually look like to have effective problem-solving skills? And how can you help your students develop these skills?

Why should you teach problem-solving skills to students?

Problem-solving skills make a person adaptable. ‘Problem-solving skills’ is a plural term, and therefore implied is a set of skills, which includes creativity, emotional intelligence and perseverance. This helps to explain why ‘problem-solving skills’ are so sought after in every field.

The earlier students are able to develop their problem-solving skills, the better the outcome. Problem-solving skills come in handy in nearly every situation: in the classroom, in the workplace, and generally in life. Put simply, problem-solving skills give a person independence, which is why it is so important to teach them from a young age. When you are no longer required to depend on parents or teachers for support and guidance, students become more and more independent, capable and are able to gain autonomy.

How to develop problem-solving skills in students

Teaching students problem-solving skills might look different depending on the subject a student is being taught. In maths, teach your students not only to do repetitive drills on the problems which are sure to come up in their exams, but also how to use their initiative to solve problems which have never been explained to them before. In science subjects, you might ask students to come up with their own experiment instead of giving them a pre-devised experiment. In English, encourage students to come up with their own textual analyses, rather than letting them rely on study guides and teaching for all of their ideas.

Problem-solving exercises to give to children

At a young age, children respond very well to games, which is why they are perfect for developing one’s problem-solving skills. Games can often present highly complex problem-solving situations to children – this is an environment of fun which promotes learning, but also provides a challenge! Websites such as this one can provide a series of recommendations based on different age ranges, which is a good way of progressively introducing more and more challenging problem-solving activities to children. Alternatively, this webpage provides more in-depth explanations of several simple games which can be used effectively in a classroom, by parents, or in one-to-one tuition.

Problem-solving exercises to give to teenagers

Just like a muscle, problem-solving skills are strengthened over time and with practice. So, make sure you keep encouraging your students’ growth in this field. Teenagers enjoy games, just like children (of course!), but they are also capable of more advanced problem-solving activities. Unlike most children, teenagers can work on developing complex critical thinking skills which, obviously, allow them to solve more advanced problems. You can find some free suggestions for developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills tailored towards teaching teens here and here.

If you loved this article, you will LOVE all of our other articles, such as: How to Study in Times of StressBenefits of Using Technology in the Classroom and How to Maximise Online Lessons for Tutors and Students

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How to Develop Problem-Solving Skills in Students