Supporting & Developing Problem Solvers

Supporting & Developing Problem Solvers
Posted on 02/20/2019
From Mrs. Desiree Pezley, Eugene Field Assistant Principal

In the world of education, discussions often circulate around the rigor of activities, classes, and programs. Rigor and problem solving go hand in hand.  So what is rigor? According to Jordan Catapano of the of the K12 Teachers Alliance, ““Rigor,” in the academic sense, is referring to that fine line between challenging and frustrating a student. It means that students are challenged to think, perform, and grow to a level that they were not at previously. It means that students must work, like an athlete at a team practice, to build their skills, understanding, and thinking power so that they can achieve at higher and higher levels. It means that the standards of the course are calibrated so that students are compelled to grow, but are not frustrated and overwhelmed in the process.”


Students can’t just suddenly jump into rigorous environments or activities. To avoid frustrations kids have to be exposed to problem solving. You don’t have to be an experienced teacher to begin building your child’s problem solving skills. Even babies and toddlers can be problem solvers. When your little one is building a block tower and reaches over for another block only to knock the tower down, he may repeat the same method a few times before problem solving and realizing he has to crawl around the tower to reach the other blocks. He may even get frustrated and cry when the tower falls before discovering the solution. As a parent, it is hard to stop yourself from getting the block for your baby. It is parental instinct to “save” your baby from the frustration. Allowing and supporting your baby through this failure will help him achieve at a higher and higher level.

When your children get into a squabble over something that seems completely ridiculous, parental instincts take charge once again. As parents, and in the heat of the moment, we don’t tend to think of these arguments as an opportunity to build problem solving skills. These are perfect opportunities for kids to solve problems involving others. Take this chance to model what can be said during conflicts to express what is wanted or needed from the other person and/or the feelings involved. Problem solving, especially as people mature, often involves interacting, communicating, and compromising with other people. Coach and support your children through these conflicts to help them achieve at a higher and higher level.

Building block towers and sibling rivalries are not the same as being in a high school dual credit physics class rich with academic rigor, but each everyday problem solving experience is a building block for developing the confidence a person needs to cope with the rigor of advanced classes: a stalled car on the highway and a dead phone, why customers are getting their haircuts at the salon across town, or how to support their family on a lowered income. Problem solving skills help kids and young adults prepare for the rigors of life.

So get down on the floor with your toddler and support his growing problem solving skills during play time. Take time to read stories involving problem solving, help your kiddo figure out how to build the fastest derby car, and teach them how to appropriately communicate with others in times of conflict. Kids are sure to slip up, struggle, and become slightly frustrated but avoid that overwhelming parental instinct to swoop in and solve the problem for your children. As long as they are safe, these are all perfect times to allow your child to experiment with problem solving. As difficult as it is allow for some failure, support your child and help them learn from the experience so they are prepared and equipped for a lifetime of problem solving.