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Problem Solving

Problem solving is the process of finding solutions to complex problems. It allows us to solve everyday problems so we can do our daily activities more efficiently and functionally. There are seven steps involved in problem solving, which is called the problem solving cycle. These steps are: 

Step  Description  Example 
  1. Identifying the problem 
Determining the main source of the problem 
  • Failing a class because you are not making the time to study 
2. Understanding the problem  Consider the reasons behind the problem 
  • You have been procrastinating with your studies 
  • You are too busy with work to study 
3. Forming a strategy    Finding a solution 
  • Manage more time to study whenever you are available 
4. Organizing information  Find more information about the problem. Consider the questions: What do you know about the problem, and what do you not know about the problem? 
  • Knowing that your grade will improve if you ace the next test 
  • Not knowing how much time you should study every week 
5. Allocating resources  Determine resources to use to find the solution, i.e., time, money, etc.  
  • Allocating 1 hour of time each day for studying 
6. Monitoring progress  Keep track of your progress 
  • Seeing if you are improving on practice tests 
7. Evaluating the results  Determine if the solution is the best possible solution to your problem 
  • You passed the class because you managed more time to study, but it was not the grade you wanted. You decide to allocate more time into studying for your next class to receive a better grade. 


Individuals with impaired problem solving skills may experience: 

  • Difficulty recognizing the problem 
  • Difficulty finding solutions to problems 
  • Inability to come up with new ideas 
  • A disorderly approach to problem solving 

Strategies to improve problem solving skills include:  

  • Breaking down a task into smaller components 
  • Lessening demands, i.e., starting out simple, doing one thing at a time 
  • List pros and cons of each solution 
  • Trial and error: trying out different solutions until the problem is solved 
  • Practice divergent thinking: generating different or creative ideas to explore many possible solutions 



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