Problem Solving


In our everyday lives, at work and at school, we are constantly being challenged with problems to solve.

Some people rise to the challenges and see them as opportunities for development.

They have a clear and systematic way of tackling problems which works in most cases, gives them a greater sense of self-confidence and contributes to their sense of self-esteem. Other people fear the challenge. They have little or no set routine for tackling a problem, no matter how minor or trivial it may be. They usually fail to identify the nature of the problem and therefore are not in a good position to apply the correct analytical tools to solve it.

Frequently, they fail to solve the problem and as a result feel like failures. This is a downward spiral which seems to perpetuate itself – but it need not be like this. Parents can help their children to realise that problems are a challenge which can be solved. If parents then help their children to break the problem down into its parts, they can begin to provide their children with valuable skills which they can apply time and time again in many learning situations.

So what is problem solving?

The ability to solve problems can be broken down into two separate but related parts.

Analysis: this is the ability to break a problem down into its sub-parts and look at these closely to see how they fit together.

Synthesis: having broken the problem down into its sub-parts, we then need to learn how to put the parts back again in such a way as to make sense of the original problem we are tackling.

The two aspects of problem-solving, analysis and synthesis, are vital steps towards a proper understanding of how to tackle problems. However, it has been found that many young people have great difficulty applying these steps. They fail to appreciate that problems can be broken down into more manageable blocks and tend to see them globally – as a whole – rather than in an analytical sense. As parents and teachers there are a number of steps we can take to help children grasp this point.