Eliminate possibilities. When there is more than one possible solution to a problem, each possibility must be
examined. Potential solutions that do not work are discarded from the list of possible solutions until an appropriate
answer is determined.
Look for a pattern. Patterns are useful in many problem-solving situations. This strategy will be especially useful in
solving many real-world problems. “Patterns are a way for young students to recognize order and to organize their
world” (NCTM, 2000, p. 91).
Choose the operation/write a formula or number sentence. Some problems are easily solved with the application
of a known formula or number sentence. The difficulty often lies in choosing the appropriate formula or operation.
Work the problem backward. If the problem involves a sequence of steps that can be reversed, it may be useful to
work the problem backward. Children at the early childhood level may already have some experience in working
backward. In solving many mazes and puzzles, it is sometimes easier to begin at the end than to begin at the
Ask the student the following questions: When does diagramming or drawing pictures come in handy? When do students or their
parents make lists to help them solve problems? How does discussing a problem or situation help solve it? Why is it important to
think clearly and be organized when solving a problem?
Brainstorm some home-based problems with the student, (such as taking out the trash, noise, incorporating healthier foods in meal
planning, the need for more computer time or devices). Choosing one, discuss with the student how they might go about solving it.
What are some possible solutions to this problem? How would you test the solutions? Who would you talk with to discuss possible
solutions? Would a diagram or drawing help you solve this problem? Do you need math to solve this problem? What would you say
to make people understand your solution?
Demonstrate drawing a line down the center of a piece of paper. Draw an example of a problem on one side of the paper, such as
planning lunch or difficulty building a model airplane. On the other side of the divided paper, draw a solution to the problem, perhaps
asking for help, or a child drawing a diagram of the model airplane.