How can I improve my child's confidence with problem-solving tasks?

Mar 2012
Problem-solving is a crucial skill for young children to develop and can be applied to a number of subjects.

Problem-solving is a crucial skill for young children to develop and can be applied to a number of subjects. Helping children to tackle problems, whether it is mathematical or scientific, will aid them on their learning journey and improve their overall confidence. Below are just a few ways that you can support your child in developing analytical thinking.

Word problems
Presenting children with numerical word problems or riddles will help them to think on a number of different levels. As an example, if children were presented with the sum 3 x 4, they would simply use their knowledge of times tables or repeated addition to solve the problem. However, if the problem were 'a box has three eggs, how many would four have?' they would need to identify the correct operation and create a number sentence. As they practice this type of problem on a regular basis, they will begin to approach tasks in a methodical manner.

Higher order thinking
Schools regularly stimulate children's thinking skills by using Bloom's Taxonomy. The groups of question stems below can be used to help children look at a task in a number of different ways.

What would happen if...?
How many ways can you...?
Can you group by characteristics such as...?
What factors would you change if...?

Approach problems from different angles
Children are well accustomed to the question equals answer format, so turn this on its head by giving them an answer and asking them how many questions they can make to match it. For example, the scientific answer may be 'turns into a liquid' and the question may be 'What happens to ice when it is melted?'Another game involves giving children all the properties of 3D or 2D shapes or the personality traits of a character and asking them to indentify which shape or character they belong to.

Encourage children to work out the problem in a number of different ways
Children's learning styles can vary from visual to kinesthetic to auditory. If your child is a visual learner, it may help them to draw out a problem or create a flow-map to gain confidence in problem solving. In the same way, auditory learners may need to read the problem out loud to gain a better understanding of a task.