If you are a parent or teacher and want to see if you can challenge your teens (ages 13 and up) to think critically and learn how to be better problem solvers, try this activity with them. It can be discussed in class, at the dinner table, or while driving in the car. Read the problem below and see what ideas, solutions, thoughts, processes and reflections they come up with.

21st Century Problem Solving Involving Technology [1]

Problem to Solve: You are given $100 million dollars[2] to solve one of society’s most pressing problems. What problem would you choose, what would be your solution, and what would you use the $100 million for? Use the Problem/Solution chart to brainstorm ideas of what the problem is, and ideas for your solution.

See https://www.100andchange.org and think about whether you could see yourself acting on your ideas to solve this problem. If money was not an obstacle, what could you accomplish?

Ask yourself?  

When answering the problem, you must explain, justify and evaluate your opinion and resources. Explain:

  1. What is the problem you want to solve?
  2. How does this problem affect society?
  3. What tools would you need as resources?
  4. Who would you gather to be on your team to solve this issue?


The Meaning of Problem-Solving

The definition of problem-solving is “the process or act of finding a solution to a problem” [3] or “the process of finding solutions to difficult or complex issues.

Words that are like problem solving include: thinking, thought, thought process.[4]

Problem Solving Activity #1 Discuss as a Class or at Home:

The following activity will help you to problem solve in your own life, and help others as you mastermind solutions together. Discuss solutions to these everyday problems:

  1. You are driving somewhere new, using your GPS to navigate and suddenly there is an accident and traffic is derailed. You must go a different way to your destination, but you have no idea where you are going. Brainstorm solutions to this problem.
  2. You’ve dropped your IPad and the screen is now green and all messed up. How could you find a way to fix the screen? Brainstorm solutions to this problem.
  3. Your friend calls you in desperate need of help! They have flushed their keys down the toilet. What do they do? Brainstorm solutions to this problem.

Outcomes of this Activity:

  1. Students begin to think about real world problems and how they would solve them. What resources would they use? How does technology come into play as a solution? How are the solutions they are coming up with now different than 20 years ago?  How does collaborating ideas help to solve problems?
  2. Students will need to show they understand the problem, can apply a solution, analyze whether it will work, evaluate other options and create a final solution to the problem.

[1] Worksheet inspired by Sonja Delafosse YouTube Video 9:27  Posted October 24, 2011 “Teaching in the 21st Century” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=075aWDdZUlM&t=8s

[2] This question was posed by the MacArthur Foundation in their 100 and Change Initiative. https://www.100andchange.org/  AchieveIT360.com was one of the 1900 applicants. We took our learning experience and tied it into this activity.

[3] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/problem%20solving

[4] David Perkins “40 Years of Teaching Thinking” YouTube Video 1:12:51 Posted October 21, 2011 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-nmt1atA6ag

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