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Arizona State University

Problem-Solving

This course is part of multiple programs. Learn more

This course is part of multiple programs

Taught in English

Some content may not be translated

CareerCatalyst

Instructor: CareerCatalyst

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Skills you'll gain

Collecting data for new solutions, identifying root causes, details to know.

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There are 4 modules in this course

Problem-solving is a universal skill. Its applications aren’t limited to your job or what you’re working on in class. Maybe you need the best arrangement to hang up some pictures, are setting up a new TV or just want to find somewhere for your team to go for lunch. These are all examples of problems: situations that can be addressed. The question you then ask is: “How can I go about solving these problems?”

With the expertise of Dr. Brent Scholar from the ASU College of Integrative Arts and Sciences, the Problem-solving course will put the tools, knowledge and strategies of problem-solving directly into your hands. You’ll learn the fundamentals and get acquainted with your problem-solving toolkit. Then, you’ll directly apply them in hands-on scenarios. Problem-solving is all about generating solutions. Problem-solving is a skill that anyone can learn and can be applied anywhere. Jump-start your problem-solving journey today!

Welcome to Problem-solving!

Course conclusion.

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Arizona State University has developed a new model for the American Research University, creating an institution that is committed to excellence, access and impact. ASU measures itself by those it includes, not by those it excludes. ASU pursues research that contributes to the public good, and ASU assumes major responsibility for the economic, social and cultural vitality of the communities that surround it.

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Frequently asked questions

When will i have access to the lectures and assignments.

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  • Problem Solving

Learn problem solving with online courses and programs

What is problem solving.

Problem solving is the process of finding effective solutions to challenges, obstacles, or complex situations. It involves identifying the problem, analyzing its root causes, and devising strategies to overcome it. Effective problem solving requires critical thinking, creativity, and a systematic approach to evaluate potential options and make informed decisions. The process may involve gathering information, brainstorming ideas, testing hypotheses, and adapting approaches based on feedback. Problem solving is a fundamental skill in various aspects of life, from personal dilemmas to professional tasks. It enables individuals to tackle problems methodically, adapt to changing circumstances, and find innovative solutions to improve outcomes and achieve desired goals.

Problem Solving | Introduction Image

Browse online problem-solving courses   New

Related topics, problem-solving course curriculum.

Do you need help tackling tough challenges? Learn the skills necessary to overcome obstacles in an online problem-solving course. 

A beginner course on problem solving may teach you the basic process for understanding a problem, as well as evaluating and implementing potential solutions. More specialized classes may focus on developing specific skills that can help you address problems like negotiating, effectively communicating with different stakeholders, leading teams, and managing your resources. You may also delve into specific project management methodologies like Agile. 

Problem-solving skills are transferable and can contribute to success in any environment. In the workplace, problem solvers can stand out among the competition. In personal life, problem-solving skills can help you to resolve conflicts, make better decisions, and improve relationships.

edX offers online courses that allow learners to study different topics that can help hone their problem-solving skills or any of a variety of disciplines.‌ Sign up for an accelerated boot camp or enroll in a full degree program and start working toward a bachelor's degree or (for more advanced learners) a master’s degree in a relevant subject. You can also explore executive education programs specifically designed for busy professionals.

How problem-solving skills can help your career

Job candidates with solid problem-solving skills are adaptable, resourceful, and resilient. Organizations value problem solvers for: 

Efficiency and productivity. When employees are able to solve problems quickly and efficiently, they can free up their time to focus on other tasks. 

Risk reduction. By identifying and resolving problems early on, employers can avoid costly mistakes and negative consequences. 

Resilience. In today's ever-changing world, businesses can benefit from employees who are able to adapt to change and solve problems as they arise.

Taking a course on problem solving could better prepare you for any career. Learning how to find solutions can help create better managers, employers, and individual contributors. Explore the suite of online courses made available through edX and expand your transferable problem-solving skills.

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Last updated August 2023

Introduction to Problem Solving Skills

What is problem solving and why is it important.

Defining problem solving skills

The ability to solve problems is a basic life skill and is essential to our day-to-day lives, at home, at school, and at work. We solve problems every day without really thinking about how we solve them. For example: it’s raining and you need to go to the store. What do you do? There are lots of possible solutions. Take your umbrella and walk. If you don't want to get wet, you can drive, or take the bus. You might decide to call a friend for a ride, or you might decide to go to the store another day. There is no right way to solve this problem and different people will solve it differently.

Problem solving is the process of identifying a problem, developing possible solution paths, and taking the appropriate course of action.

Why is problem solving important? Good problem solving skills empower you not only in your personal life but are critical in your professional life. In the current fast-changing global economy, employers often identify everyday problem solving as crucial to the success of their organizations. For employees, problem solving can be used to develop practical and creative solutions, and to show independence and initiative to employers.

Throughout this case study you will be asked to jot down your thoughts in idea logs. These idea logs are used for reflection on concepts and for answering short questions. When you click on the "Next" button, your responses will be saved for that page. If you happen to close the webpage, you will lose your work on the page you were on, but previous pages will be saved. At the end of the case study, click on the "Finish and Export to PDF" button to acknowledge completion of the case study and receive a PDF document of your idea logs.

What Does Problem Solving Look Like?

IDEAL heuristic strategy for problem solving

The ability to solve problems is a skill, and just like any other skill, the more you practice, the better you get. So how exactly do you practice problem solving? Learning about different problem solving strategies and when to use them will give you a good start. Problem solving is a process. Most strategies provide steps that help you identify the problem and choose the best solution. There are two basic types of strategies: algorithmic and heuristic.

Algorithmic strategies are traditional step-by-step guides to solving problems. They are great for solving math problems (in algebra: multiply and divide, then add or subtract) or for helping us remember the correct order of things (a mnemonic such as “Spring Forward, Fall Back” to remember which way the clock changes for daylight saving time, or “Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey” to remember what direction to turn bolts and screws). Algorithms are best when there is a single path to the correct solution.

But what do you do when there is no single solution for your problem? Heuristic methods are general guides used to identify possible solutions. A popular one that is easy to remember is IDEAL [ Bransford & Stein, 1993 ] :

  • I dentify the problem
  • D efine the context of the problem
  • E xplore possible strategies
  • A ct on best solution

IDEAL is just one problem solving strategy. Building a toolbox of problem solving strategies will improve your problem solving skills. With practice, you will be able to recognize and use multiple strategies to solve complex problems.

Watch the video

What is the best way to get a peanut out of a tube that cannot be moved? Watch a chimpanzee solve this problem in the video below [ Geert Stienissen, 2010 ].

[PDF transcript]

Describe the series of steps you think the chimpanzee used to solve this problem.

  • [Page 2: What does Problem Solving Look Like?] Describe the series of steps you think the chimpanzee used to solve this problem.

Think of an everyday problem you've encountered recently and describe your steps for solving it.

  • [Page 2: What does Problem Solving Look Like?] Think of an everyday problem you've encountered recently and describe your steps for solving it.

Developing Problem Solving Processes

Problem solving is a process that uses steps to solve problems. But what does that really mean? Let's break it down and start building our toolbox of problem solving strategies.

What is the first step of solving any problem? The first step is to recognize that there is a problem and identify the right cause of the problem. This may sound obvious, but similar problems can arise from different events, and the real issue may not always be apparent. To really solve the problem, it's important to find out what started it all. This is called identifying the root cause .

Example: You and your classmates have been working long hours on a project in the school's workshop. The next afternoon, you try to use your student ID card to access the workshop, but discover that your magnetic strip has been demagnetized. Since the card was a couple of years old, you chalk it up to wear and tear and get a new ID card. Later that same week you learn that several of your classmates had the same problem! After a little investigation, you discover that a strong magnet was stored underneath a workbench in the workshop. The magnet was the root cause of the demagnetized student ID cards.

The best way to identify the root cause of the problem is to ask questions and gather information. If you have a vague problem, investigating facts is more productive than guessing a solution. Ask yourself questions about the problem. What do you know about the problem? What do you not know? When was the last time it worked correctly? What has changed since then? Can you diagram the process into separate steps? Where in the process is the problem occurring? Be curious, ask questions, gather facts, and make logical deductions rather than assumptions.

Watch Adam Savage from Mythbusters, describe his problem solving process [ ForaTv, 2010 ]. As you watch this section of the video, try to identify the questions he asks and the different strategies he uses.

Adam Savage shared many of his problem solving processes. List the ones you think are the five most important. Your list may be different from other people in your class—that's ok!

  • [Page 3: Developing Problem Solving Processes] Adam Savage shared many of his problem solving processes. List the ones you think are the five most important.

“The ability to ask the right question is more than half the battle of finding the answer.” — Thomas J. Watson , founder of IBM

Voices From the Field: Solving Problems

In manufacturing facilities and machine shops, everyone on the floor is expected to know how to identify problems and find solutions. Today's employers look for the following skills in new employees: to analyze a problem logically, formulate a solution, and effectively communicate with others.

In this video, industry professionals share their own problem solving processes, the problem solving expectations of their employees, and an example of how a problem was solved.

Meet the Partners:

  • Taconic High School in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, is a comprehensive, fully accredited high school with special programs in Health Technology, Manufacturing Technology, and Work-Based Learning.
  • Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, prepares its students with applied manufacturing technical skills, providing hands-on experience at industrial laboratories and manufacturing facilities, and instructing them in current technologies.
  • H.C. Starck in Newton, Massachusetts, specializes in processing and manufacturing technology metals, such as tungsten, niobium, and tantalum. In almost 100 years of experience, they hold over 900 patents, and continue to innovate and develop new products.
  • Nypro Healthcare in Devens, Massachusetts, specializes in precision injection-molded healthcare products. They are committed to good manufacturing processes including lean manufacturing and process validation.

Making Decisions

Now that you have a couple problem solving strategies in your toolbox, let's practice. In this exercise, you are given a scenario and you will be asked to decide what steps you would take to identify and solve the problem.

Scenario: You are a new employee and have just finished your training. As your first project, you have been assigned the milling of several additional components for a regular customer. Together, you and your trainer, Bill, set up for the first run. Checking your paperwork, you gather the tools and materials on the list. As you are mounting the materials on the table, you notice that you didn't grab everything and hurriedly grab a few more items from one of the bins. Once the material is secured on the CNC table, you load tools into the tool carousel in the order listed on the tool list and set the fixture offsets.

Bill tells you that since this is a rerun of a job several weeks ago, the CAD/CAM model has already been converted to CNC G-code. Bill helps you download the code to the CNC machine. He gives you the go-ahead and leaves to check on another employee. You decide to start your first run.

What problems did you observe in the video?

  • [Page 5: Making Decisions] What problems did you observe in the video?
  • What do you do next?
  • Try to fix it yourself.
  • Ask your trainer for help.

As you are cleaning up, you think about what happened and wonder why it happened. You try to create a mental picture of what happened. You are not exactly sure what the end mill hit, but it looked like it might have hit the dowel pin. You wonder if you grabbed the correct dowel pins from the bins earlier.

You can think of two possible next steps. You can recheck the dowel pin length to make sure it is the correct length, or do a dry run using the CNC single step or single block function with the spindle empty to determine what actually happened.

screenshot of cnc problem

  • Check the dowel pins.
  • Use the single step/single block function to determine what happened.

You notice that your trainer, Bill, is still on the floor and decide to ask him for help. You describe the problem to him. Bill asks if you know what the end mill ran into. You explain that you are not sure but you think it was the dowel pin. Bill reminds you that it is important to understand what happened so you can fix the correct problem. He suggests that you start all over again and begin with a dry run using the single step/single block function, with the spindle empty, to determine what it hit. Or, since it happened at the end, he mentions that you can also check the G-code to make sure the Z-axis is raised before returning to the home position.

ask help from a more experienced person

  • Run the single step/single block function.
  • Edit the G-code to raise the Z-axis.

You finish cleaning up and check the CNC for any damage. Luckily, everything looks good. You check your paperwork and gather the components and materials again. You look at the dowel pins you used earlier, and discover that they are not the right length. As you go to grab the correct dowel pins, you have to search though several bins. For the first time, you are aware of the mess - it looks like the dowel pins and other items have not been put into the correctly labeled bins. You spend 30 minutes straightening up the bins and looking for the correct dowel pins.

Finally finding them, you finish setting up. You load tools into the tool carousel in the order listed on the tool list and set the fixture offsets. Just to make sure, you use the CNC single step/single block function, to do a dry run of the part. Everything looks good! You are ready to create your first part. The first component is done, and, as you admire your success, you notice that the part feels hotter than it should.

You wonder why? You go over the steps of the process to mentally figure out what could be causing the residual heat. You wonder if there is a problem with the CNC's coolant system or if the problem is in the G-code.

  • Look at the G-code.

After thinking about the problem, you decide that maybe there's something wrong with the setup. First, you clean up the damaged materials and remove the broken tool. You check the CNC machine carefully for any damage. Luckily, everything looks good. It is time to start over again from the beginning.

You again check your paperwork and gather the tools and materials on the setup sheet. After securing the new materials, you use the CNC single step/single block function with the spindle empty, to do a dry run of the part. You watch carefully to see if you can figure out what happened. It looks to you like the spindle barely misses hitting the dowel pin. You determine that the end mill was broken when it hit the dowel pin while returning to the start position.

idea at cnc machine

After conducting a dry run using the single step/single block function, you determine that the end mill was damaged when it hit the dowel pin on its return to the home position. You discuss your options with Bill. Together, you decide the best thing to do would be to edit the G-code and raise the Z-axis before returning to home. You open the CNC control program and edit the G-code. Just to make sure, you use the CNC single step/single block function, to do another dry run of the part. You are ready to create your first part. It works. You first part is completed. Only four more to go.

software or hardware problem

As you are cleaning up, you notice that the components are hotter than you expect and the end mill looks more worn than it should be. It dawns on you that while you were milling the component, the coolant didn't turn on. You wonder if it is a software problem in the G-code or hardware problem with the CNC machine.

It's the end of the day and you decide to finish the rest of the components in the morning.

  • You decide to look at the G-code in the morning.
  • You leave a note on the machine, just in case.

You decide that the best thing to do would be to edit the G-code and raise the Z-axis of the spindle before it returns to home. You open the CNC control program and edit the G-code.

While editing the G-code to raise the Z-axis, you notice that the coolant is turned off at the beginning of the code and at the end of the code. The coolant command error caught your attention because your coworker, Mark, mentioned having a similar issue during lunch. You change the coolant command to turn the mist on.

  • You decide to talk with your supervisor.
  • You discuss what happened with a coworker over lunch.

As you reflect on the residual heat problem, you think about the machining process and the factors that could have caused the issue. You try to think of anything and everything that could be causing the issue. Are you using the correct tool for the specified material? Are you using the specified material? Is it running at the correct speed? Is there enough coolant? Are there chips getting in the way?

Wait, was the coolant turned on? As you replay what happened in your mind, you wonder why the coolant wasn't turned on. You decide to look at the G-code to find out what is going on.

From the milling machine computer, you open the CNC G-code. You notice that there are no coolant commands. You add them in and on the next run, the coolant mist turns on and the residual heat issues is gone. Now, its on to creating the rest of the parts.

Have you ever used brainstorming to solve a problem? Chances are, you've probably have, even if you didn't realize it.

You notice that your trainer, Bill, is on the floor and decide to ask him for help. You describe the problem with the end mill breaking, and how you discovered that items are not being returned to the correctly labeled bins. You think this caused you to grab the incorrect length dowel pins on your first run. You have sorted the bins and hope that the mess problem is fixed. You then go on to tell Bill about the residual heat issue with the completed part.

Together, you go to the milling machine. Bill shows you how to check the oil and coolant levels. Everything looks good at the machine level. Next, on the CNC computer, you open the CNC G-code. While looking at the code, Bill points out that there are no coolant commands. Bill adds them in and when you rerun the program, it works.

Bill is glad you mentioned the problem to him. You are the third worker to mention G-code issues over the last week. You noticed the coolant problems in your G-code, John noticed a Z-axis issue in his G-code, and Sam had issues with both the Z-axis and the coolant. Chances are, there is a bigger problem and Bill will need to investigate the root cause .

Talking with Bill, you discuss the best way to fix the problem. Bill suggests editing the G-code to raise the Z-axis of the spindle before it returns to its home position. You open the CNC control program and edit the G-code. Following the setup sheet, you re-setup the job and use the CNC single step/single block function, to do another dry run of the part. Everything looks good, so you run the job again and create the first part. It works. Since you need four of each component, you move on to creating the rest of them before cleaning up and leaving for the day.

It's a new day and you have new components to create. As you are setting up, you go in search of some short dowel pins. You discover that the bins are a mess and components have not been put away in the correctly labeled bins. You wonder if this was the cause of yesterday's problem. As you reorganize the bins and straighten up the mess, you decide to mention the mess issue to Bill in your afternoon meeting.

You describe the bin mess and using the incorrect length dowels to Bill. He is glad you mentioned the problem to him. You are not the first person to mention similar issues with tools and parts not being put away correctly. Chances are there is a bigger safety issue here that needs to be addressed in the next staff meeting.

In any workplace, following proper safety and cleanup procedures is always important. This is especially crucial in manufacturing where people are constantly working with heavy, costly and sometimes dangerous equipment. When issues and problems arise, it is important that they are addressed in an efficient and timely manner. Effective communication is an important tool because it can prevent problems from recurring, avoid injury to personnel, reduce rework and scrap, and ultimately, reduce cost, and save money.

You now know that the end mill was damaged when it hit the dowel pin. It seems to you that the easiest thing to do would be to edit the G-code and raise the Z-axis position of the spindle before it returns to the home position. You open the CNC control program and edit the G-code, raising the Z-axis. Starting over, you follow the setup sheet and re-setup the job. This time, you use the CNC single step/single block function, to do another dry run of the part. Everything looks good, so you run the job again and create the first part.

At the end of the day, you are reviewing your progress with your trainer, Bill. After you describe the day's events, he reminds you to always think about safety and the importance of following work procedures. He decides to bring the issue up in the next morning meeting as a reminder to everyone.

In any workplace, following proper procedures (especially those that involve safety) is always important. This is especially crucial in manufacturing where people are constantly working with heavy, costly, and sometimes dangerous equipment. When issues and problems arise, it is important that they are addressed in an efficient and timely manner. Effective communication is an important tool because it can prevent problems from recurring, avoid injury to personnel, reduce rework and scrap, and ultimately, reduce cost, and save money. One tool to improve communication is the morning meeting or huddle.

The next morning, you check the G-code to determine what is wrong with the coolant. You notice that the coolant is turned off at the beginning of the code and also at the end of the code. This is strange. You change the G-code to turn the coolant on at the beginning of the run and off at the end. This works and you create the rest of the parts.

Throughout the day, you keep wondering what caused the G-code error. At lunch, you mention the G-code error to your coworker, John. John is not surprised. He said that he encountered a similar problem earlier this week. You decide to talk with your supervisor the next time you see him.

You are in luck. You see your supervisor by the door getting ready to leave. You hurry over to talk with him. You start off by telling him about how you asked Bill for help. Then you tell him there was a problem and the end mill was damaged. You describe the coolant problem in the G-code. Oh, and by the way, John has seen a similar problem before.

Your supervisor doesn't seem overly concerned, errors happen. He tells you "Good job, I am glad you were able to fix the issue." You are not sure whether your supervisor understood your explanation of what happened or that it had happened before.

The challenge of communicating in the workplace is learning how to share your ideas and concerns. If you need to tell your supervisor that something is not going well, it is important to remember that timing, preparation, and attitude are extremely important.

It is the end of your shift, but you want to let the next shift know that the coolant didn't turn on. You do not see your trainer or supervisor around. You decide to leave a note for the next shift so they are aware of the possible coolant problem. You write a sticky note and leave it on the monitor of the CNC control system.

How effective do you think this solution was? Did it address the problem?

In this scenario, you discovered several problems with the G-code that need to be addressed. When issues and problems arise, it is important that they are addressed in an efficient and timely manner. Effective communication is an important tool because it can prevent problems from recurring and avoid injury to personnel. The challenge of communicating in the workplace is learning how and when to share your ideas and concerns. If you need to tell your co-workers or supervisor that there is a problem, it is important to remember that timing and the method of communication are extremely important.

You are able to fix the coolant problem in the G-code. While you are glad that the problem is fixed, you are worried about why it happened in the first place. It is important to remember that if a problem keeps reappearing, you may not be fixing the right problem. You may only be addressing the symptoms.

You decide to talk to your trainer. Bill is glad you mentioned the problem to him. You are the third worker to mention G-code issues over the last week. You noticed the coolant problems in your G-code, John noticed a Z-axis issue in his G-code, and Sam had issues with both the Z-axis and the coolant. Chances are, there is a bigger problem and Bill will need to investigate the root cause .

Over lunch, you ask your coworkers about the G-code problem and what may be causing the error. Several people mention having similar problems but do not know the cause.

You have now talked to three coworkers who have all experienced similar coolant G-code problems. You make a list of who had the problem, when they had the problem, and what each person told you.

When you see your supervisor later that afternoon, you are ready to talk with him. You describe the problem you had with your component and the damaged bit. You then go on to tell him about talking with Bill and discovering the G-code issue. You show him your notes on your coworkers' coolant issues, and explain that you think there might be a bigger problem.

You supervisor thanks you for your initiative in identifying this problem. It sounds like there is a bigger problem and he will need to investigate the root cause. He decides to call a team huddle to discuss the issue, gather more information, and talk with the team about the importance of communication.

Root Cause Analysis

flower root cause of a problem

Root cause analysis ( RCA ) is a method of problem solving that identifies the underlying causes of an issue. Root cause analysis helps people answer the question of why the problem occurred in the first place. RCA uses clear cut steps in its associated tools, like the "5 Whys Analysis" and the "Cause and Effect Diagram," to identify the origin of the problem, so that you can:

  • Determine what happened.
  • Determine why it happened.
  • Fix the problem so it won’t happen again.

RCA works under the idea that systems and events are connected. An action in one area triggers an action in another, and another, and so on. By tracing back these actions, you can discover where the problem started and how it developed into the problem you're now facing. Root cause analysis can prevent problems from recurring, reduce injury to personnel, reduce rework and scrap, and ultimately, reduce cost and save money. There are many different RCA techniques available to determine the root cause of a problem. These are just a few:

  • Root Cause Analysis Tools
  • 5 Whys Analysis
  • Fishbone or Cause and Effect Diagram
  • Pareto Analysis

5 whys diagram root cause

How Huddles Work

group huddle discussion meeting

Communication is a vital part of any setting where people work together. Effective communication helps employees and managers form efficient teams. It builds trusts between employees and management, and reduces unnecessary competition because each employee knows how their part fits in the larger goal.

One tool that management can use to promote communication in the workplace is the huddle . Just like football players on the field, a huddle is a short meeting where everyone is standing in a circle. A daily team huddle ensures that team members are aware of changes to the schedule, reiterated problems and safety issues, and how their work impacts one another. When done right, huddles create collaboration, communication, and accountability to results. Impromptu huddles can be used to gather information on a specific issue and get each team member's input.

The most important thing to remember about huddles is that they are short, lasting no more than 10 minutes, and their purpose is to communicate and identify. In essence, a huddle’s purpose is to identify priorities, communicate essential information, and discover roadblocks to productivity.

Who uses huddles? Many industries and companies use daily huddles. At first thought, most people probably think of hospitals and their daily patient update meetings, but lots of managers use daily meetings to engage their employees. Here are a few examples:

  • Brian Scudamore, CEO of 1-800-Got-Junk? , uses the daily huddle as an operational tool to take the pulse of his employees and as a motivational tool. Watch a morning huddle meeting .
  • Fusion OEM, an outsourced manufacturing and production company. What do employees take away from the daily huddle meeting .
  • Biz-Group, a performance consulting group. Tips for a successful huddle .

Brainstorming

brainstorming small lightbulbs combined become a big idea

One tool that can be useful in problem solving is brainstorming . Brainstorming is a creativity technique designed to generate a large number of ideas for the solution to a problem. The method was first popularized in 1953 by Alex Faickney Osborn in the book Applied Imagination . The goal is to come up with as many ideas as you can in a fixed amount of time. Although brainstorming is best done in a group, it can be done individually. Like most problem solving techniques, brainstorming is a process.

  • Define a clear objective.
  • Have an agreed a time limit.
  • During the brainstorming session, write down everything that comes to mind, even if the idea sounds crazy.
  • If one idea leads to another, write down that idea too.
  • Combine and refine ideas into categories of solutions.
  • Assess and analyze each idea as a potential solution.

When used during problem solving, brainstorming can offer companies new ways of encouraging staff to think creatively and improve production. Brainstorming relies on team members' diverse experiences, adding to the richness of ideas explored. This means that you often find better solutions to the problems. Team members often welcome the opportunity to contribute ideas and can provide buy-in for the solution chosen—after all, they are more likely to be committed to an approach if they were involved in its development. What's more, because brainstorming is fun, it helps team members bond.

  • Watch Peggy Morgan Collins, a marketing executive at Power Curve Communications discuss How to Stimulate Effective Brainstorming .
  • Watch Kim Obbink, CEO of Filter Digital, a digital content company, and her team share their top five rules for How to Effectively Generate Ideas .

Importance of Good Communication and Problem Description

talking too much when describing a problem

Communication is one of the most frequent activities we engage in on a day-to-day basis. At some point, we have all felt that we did not effectively communicate an idea as we would have liked. The key to effective communication is preparation. Rather than attempting to haphazardly improvise something, take a few minutes and think about what you want say and how you will say it. If necessary, write yourself a note with the key points or ideas in the order you want to discuss them. The notes can act as a reminder or guide when you talk to your supervisor.

Tips for clear communication of an issue:

  • Provide a clear summary of your problem. Start at the beginning, give relevant facts, timelines, and examples.
  • Avoid including your opinion or personal attacks in your explanation.
  • Avoid using words like "always" or "never," which can give the impression that you are exaggerating the problem.
  • If this is an ongoing problem and you have collected documentation, give it to your supervisor once you have finished describing the problem.
  • Remember to listen to what's said in return; communication is a two-way process.

Not all communication is spoken. Body language is nonverbal communication that includes your posture, your hands and whether you make eye contact. These gestures can be subtle or overt, but most importantly they communicate meaning beyond what is said. When having a conversation, pay attention to how you stand. A stiff position with arms crossed over your chest may imply that you are being defensive even if your words state otherwise. Shoving your hands in your pockets when speaking could imply that you have something to hide. Be wary of using too many hand gestures because this could distract listeners from your message.

The challenge of communicating in the workplace is learning how and when to share your ideas or concerns. If you need to tell your supervisor or co-worker about something that is not going well, keep in mind that good timing and good attitude will go a long way toward helping your case.

Like all skills, effective communication needs to be practiced. Toastmasters International is perhaps the best known public speaking organization in the world. Toastmasters is open to anyone who wish to improve their speaking skills and is willing to put in the time and effort to do so. To learn more, visit Toastmasters International .

Methods of Communication

different ways to communicate

Communication of problems and issues in any workplace is important, particularly when safety is involved. It is therefore crucial in manufacturing where people are constantly working with heavy, costly, and sometimes dangerous equipment. As issues and problems arise, they need to be addressed in an efficient and timely manner. Effective communication is an important skill because it can prevent problems from recurring, avoid injury to personnel, reduce rework and scrap, and ultimately, reduce cost and save money.

There are many different ways to communicate: in person, by phone, via email, or written. There is no single method that fits all communication needs, each one has its time and place.

In person: In the workplace, face-to-face meetings should be utilized whenever possible. Being able to see the person you need to speak to face-to-face gives you instant feedback and helps you gauge their response through their body language. Be careful of getting sidetracked in conversation when you need to communicate a problem.

Email: Email has become the communication standard for most businesses. It can be accessed from almost anywhere and is great for things that don’t require an immediate response. Email is a great way to communicate non-urgent items to large amounts of people or just your team members. One thing to remember is that most people's inboxes are flooded with emails every day and unless they are hyper vigilant about checking everything, important items could be missed. For issues that are urgent, especially those around safety, email is not always be the best solution.

Phone: Phone calls are more personal and direct than email. They allow us to communicate in real time with another person, no matter where they are. Not only can talking prevent miscommunication, it promotes a two-way dialogue. You don’t have to worry about your words being altered or the message arriving on time. However, mobile phone use and the workplace don't always mix. In particular, using mobile phones in a manufacturing setting can lead to a variety of problems, cause distractions, and lead to serious injury.

Written: Written communication is appropriate when detailed instructions are required, when something needs to be documented, or when the person is too far away to easily speak with over the phone or in person.

There is no "right" way to communicate, but you should be aware of how and when to use the appropriate form of communication for your situation. When deciding the best way to communicate with a co-worker or manager, put yourself in their shoes, and think about how you would want to learn about the issue. Also, consider what information you would need to know to better understand the issue. Use your good judgment of the situation and be considerate of your listener's viewpoint.

Did you notice any other potential problems in the previous exercise?

  • [Page 6:] Did you notice any other potential problems in the previous exercise?

Summary of Strategies

In this exercise, you were given a scenario in which there was a problem with a component you were creating on a CNC machine. You were then asked how you wanted to proceed. Depending on your path through this exercise, you might have found an easy solution and fixed it yourself, asked for help and worked with your trainer, or discovered an ongoing G-code problem that was bigger than you initially thought.

When issues and problems arise, it is important that they are addressed in an efficient and timely manner. Communication is an important tool because it can prevent problems from recurring, avoid injury to personnel, reduce rework and scrap, and ultimately, reduce cost, and save money. Although, each path in this exercise ended with a description of a problem solving tool for your toolbox, the first step is always to identify the problem and define the context in which it happened.

There are several strategies that can be used to identify the root cause of a problem. Root cause analysis (RCA) is a method of problem solving that helps people answer the question of why the problem occurred. RCA uses a specific set of steps, with associated tools like the “5 Why Analysis" or the “Cause and Effect Diagram,” to identify the origin of the problem, so that you can:

Once the underlying cause is identified and the scope of the issue defined, the next step is to explore possible strategies to fix the problem.

If you are not sure how to fix the problem, it is okay to ask for help. Problem solving is a process and a skill that is learned with practice. It is important to remember that everyone makes mistakes and that no one knows everything. Life is about learning. It is okay to ask for help when you don’t have the answer. When you collaborate to solve problems you improve workplace communication and accelerates finding solutions as similar problems arise.

One tool that can be useful for generating possible solutions is brainstorming . Brainstorming is a technique designed to generate a large number of ideas for the solution to a problem. The method was first popularized in 1953 by Alex Faickney Osborn in the book Applied Imagination. The goal is to come up with as many ideas as you can, in a fixed amount of time. Although brainstorming is best done in a group, it can be done individually.

Depending on your path through the exercise, you may have discovered that a couple of your coworkers had experienced similar problems. This should have been an indicator that there was a larger problem that needed to be addressed.

In any workplace, communication of problems and issues (especially those that involve safety) is always important. This is especially crucial in manufacturing where people are constantly working with heavy, costly, and sometimes dangerous equipment. When issues and problems arise, it is important that they be addressed in an efficient and timely manner. Effective communication is an important tool because it can prevent problems from recurring, avoid injury to personnel, reduce rework and scrap, and ultimately, reduce cost and save money.

One strategy for improving communication is the huddle . Just like football players on the field, a huddle is a short meeting with everyone standing in a circle. A daily team huddle is a great way to ensure that team members are aware of changes to the schedule, any problems or safety issues are identified and that team members are aware of how their work impacts one another. When done right, huddles create collaboration, communication, and accountability to results. Impromptu huddles can be used to gather information on a specific issue and get each team member's input.

To learn more about different problem solving strategies, choose an option below. These strategies accompany the outcomes of different decision paths in the problem solving exercise.

  • View Problem Solving Strategies Select a strategy below... Root Cause Analysis How Huddles Work Brainstorming Importance of Good Problem Description Methods of Communication

Communication is one of the most frequent activities we engage in on a day-to-day basis. At some point, we have all felt that we did not effectively communicate an idea as we would have liked. The key to effective communication is preparation. Rather than attempting to haphazardly improvise something, take a few minutes and think about what you want say and how you will say it. If necessary, write yourself a note with the key points or ideas in the order you want to discuss them. The notes can act as a reminder or guide during your meeting.

  • Provide a clear summary of the problem. Start at the beginning, give relevant facts, timelines, and examples.

In person: In the workplace, face-to-face meetings should be utilized whenever possible. Being able to see the person you need to speak to face-to-face gives you instant feedback and helps you gauge their response in their body language. Be careful of getting sidetracked in conversation when you need to communicate a problem.

There is no "right" way to communicate, but you should be aware of how and when to use the appropriate form of communication for the situation. When deciding the best way to communicate with a co-worker or manager, put yourself in their shoes, and think about how you would want to learn about the issue. Also, consider what information you would need to know to better understand the issue. Use your good judgment of the situation and be considerate of your listener's viewpoint.

"Never try to solve all the problems at once — make them line up for you one-by-one.” — Richard Sloma

Problem Solving: An Important Job Skill

Problem solving improves efficiency and communication on the shop floor. It increases a company's efficiency and profitability, so it's one of the top skills employers look for when hiring new employees. Recent industry surveys show that employers consider soft skills, such as problem solving, as critical to their business’s success.

The 2011 survey, "Boiling Point? The skills gap in U.S. manufacturing ," polled over a thousand manufacturing executives who reported that the number one skill deficiency among their current employees is problem solving, which makes it difficult for their companies to adapt to the changing needs of the industry.

In this video, industry professionals discuss their expectations and present tips for new employees joining the manufacturing workforce.

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  • Problem Solving in STEM

Solving problems is a key component of many science, math, and engineering classes.  If a goal of a class is for students to emerge with the ability to solve new kinds of problems or to use new problem-solving techniques, then students need numerous opportunities to develop the skills necessary to approach and answer different types of problems.  Problem solving during section or class allows students to develop their confidence in these skills under your guidance, better preparing them to succeed on their homework and exams. This page offers advice about strategies for facilitating problem solving during class.

How do I decide which problems to cover in section or class?

In-class problem solving should reinforce the major concepts from the class and provide the opportunity for theoretical concepts to become more concrete. If students have a problem set for homework, then in-class problem solving should prepare students for the types of problems that they will see on their homework. You may wish to include some simpler problems both in the interest of time and to help students gain confidence, but it is ideal if the complexity of at least some of the in-class problems mirrors the level of difficulty of the homework. You may also want to ask your students ahead of time which skills or concepts they find confusing, and include some problems that are directly targeted to their concerns.

You have given your students a problem to solve in class. What are some strategies to work through it?

  • Try to give your students a chance to grapple with the problems as much as possible.  Offering them the chance to do the problem themselves allows them to learn from their mistakes in the presence of your expertise as their teacher. (If time is limited, they may not be able to get all the way through multi-step problems, in which case it can help to prioritize giving them a chance to tackle the most challenging steps.)
  • When you do want to teach by solving the problem yourself at the board, talk through the logic of how you choose to apply certain approaches to solve certain problems.  This way you can externalize the type of thinking you hope your students internalize when they solve similar problems themselves.
  • Start by setting up the problem on the board (e.g you might write down key variables and equations; draw a figure illustrating the question).  Ask students to start solving the problem, either independently or in small groups.  As they are working on the problem, walk around to hear what they are saying and see what they are writing down. If several students seem stuck, it might be a good to collect the whole class again to clarify any confusion.  After students have made progress, bring the everyone back together and have students guide you as to what to write on the board.
  • It can help to first ask students to work on the problem by themselves for a minute, and then get into small groups to work on the problem collaboratively.
  • If you have ample board space, have students work in small groups at the board while solving the problem.  That way you can monitor their progress by standing back and watching what they put up on the board.
  • If you have several problems you would like to have the students practice, but not enough time for everyone to do all of them, you can assign different groups of students to work on different – but related - problems.

When do you want students to work in groups to solve problems?

  • Don’t ask students to work in groups for straightforward problems that most students could solve independently in a short amount of time.
  • Do have students work in groups for thought-provoking problems, where students will benefit from meaningful collaboration.
  • Even in cases where you plan to have students work in groups, it can be useful to give students some time to work on their own before collaborating with others.  This ensures that every student engages with the problem and is ready to contribute to a discussion.

What are some benefits of having students work in groups?

  • Students bring different strengths, different knowledge, and different ideas for how to solve a problem; collaboration can help students work through problems that are more challenging than they might be able to tackle on their own.
  • In working in a group, students might consider multiple ways to approach a problem, thus enriching their repertoire of strategies.
  • Students who think they understand the material will gain a deeper understanding by explaining concepts to their peers.

What are some strategies for helping students to form groups?  

  • Instruct students to work with the person (or people) sitting next to them.
  • Count off.  (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4; all the 1’s find each other and form a group, etc)
  • Hand out playing cards; students need to find the person with the same number card. (There are many variants to this.  For example, you can print pictures of images that go together [rain and umbrella]; each person gets a card and needs to find their partner[s].)
  • Based on what you know about the students, assign groups in advance. List the groups on the board.
  • Note: Always have students take the time to introduce themselves to each other in a new group.

What should you do while your students are working on problems?

  • Walk around and talk to students. Observing their work gives you a sense of what people understand and what they are struggling with. Answer students’ questions, and ask them questions that lead in a productive direction if they are stuck.
  • If you discover that many people have the same question—or that someone has a misunderstanding that others might have—you might stop everyone and discuss a key idea with the entire class.

After students work on a problem during class, what are strategies to have them share their answers and their thinking?

  • Ask for volunteers to share answers. Depending on the nature of the problem, student might provide answers verbally or by writing on the board. As a variant, for questions where a variety of answers are relevant, ask for at least three volunteers before anyone shares their ideas.
  • Use online polling software for students to respond to a multiple-choice question anonymously.
  • If students are working in groups, assign reporters ahead of time. For example, the person with the next birthday could be responsible for sharing their group’s work with the class.
  • Cold call. To reduce student anxiety about cold calling, it can help to identify students who seem to have the correct answer as you were walking around the class and checking in on their progress solving the assigned problem. You may even want to warn the student ahead of time: "This is a great answer! Do you mind if I call on you when we come back together as a class?"
  • Have students write an answer on a notecard that they turn in to you.  If your goal is to understand whether students in general solved a problem correctly, the notecards could be submitted anonymously; if you wish to assess individual students’ work, you would want to ask students to put their names on their notecard.  
  • Use a jigsaw strategy, where you rearrange groups such that each new group is comprised of people who came from different initial groups and had solved different problems.  Students now are responsible for teaching the other students in their new group how to solve their problem.
  • Have a representative from each group explain their problem to the class.
  • Have a representative from each group draw or write the answer on the board.

What happens if a student gives a wrong answer?

  • Ask for their reasoning so that you can understand where they went wrong.
  • Ask if anyone else has other ideas. You can also ask this sometimes when an answer is right.
  • Cultivate an environment where it’s okay to be wrong. Emphasize that you are all learning together, and that you learn through making mistakes.
  • Do make sure that you clarify what the correct answer is before moving on.
  • Once the correct answer is given, go through some answer-checking techniques that can distinguish between correct and incorrect answers. This can help prepare students to verify their future work.

How can you make your classroom inclusive?

  • The goal is that everyone is thinking, talking, and sharing their ideas, and that everyone feels valued and respected. Use a variety of teaching strategies (independent work and group work; allow students to talk to each other before they talk to the class). Create an environment where it is normal to struggle and make mistakes.
  • See Kimberly Tanner’s article on strategies to promoste student engagement and cultivate classroom equity. 

A few final notes…

  • Make sure that you have worked all of the problems and also thought about alternative approaches to solving them.
  • Board work matters. You should have a plan beforehand of what you will write on the board, where, when, what needs to be added, and what can be erased when. If students are going to write their answers on the board, you need to also have a plan for making sure that everyone gets to the correct answer. Students will copy what is on the board and use it as their notes for later study, so correct and logical information must be written there.

For more information...

Tipsheet: Problem Solving in STEM Sections

Tanner, K. D. (2013). Structure matters: twenty-one teaching strategies to promote student engagement and cultivate classroom equity . CBE-Life Sciences Education, 12(3), 322-331.

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Teaching problem solving.

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Tips and Techniques

Expert vs. novice problem solvers, communicate.

  • Have students  identify specific problems, difficulties, or confusions . Don’t waste time working through problems that students already understand.
  • If students are unable to articulate their concerns, determine where they are having trouble by  asking them to identify the specific concepts or principles associated with the problem.
  • In a one-on-one tutoring session, ask the student to  work his/her problem out loud . This slows down the thinking process, making it more accurate and allowing you to access understanding.
  • When working with larger groups you can ask students to provide a written “two-column solution.” Have students write up their solution to a problem by putting all their calculations in one column and all of their reasoning (in complete sentences) in the other column. This helps them to think critically about their own problem solving and helps you to more easily identify where they may be having problems. Two-Column Solution (Math) Two-Column Solution (Physics)

Encourage Independence

  • Model the problem solving process rather than just giving students the answer. As you work through the problem, consider how a novice might struggle with the concepts and make your thinking clear
  • Have students work through problems on their own. Ask directing questions or give helpful suggestions, but  provide only minimal assistance and only when needed to overcome obstacles.
  • Don’t fear  group work ! Students can frequently help each other, and talking about a problem helps them think more critically about the steps needed to solve the problem. Additionally, group work helps students realize that problems often have multiple solution strategies, some that might be more effective than others

Be sensitive

  • Frequently, when working problems, students are unsure of themselves. This lack of confidence may hamper their learning. It is important to recognize this when students come to us for help, and to give each student some feeling of mastery. Do this by providing  positive reinforcement to let students know when they have mastered a new concept or skill.

Encourage Thoroughness and Patience

  • Try to communicate that  the process is more important than the answer so that the student learns that it is OK to not have an instant solution. This is learned through your acceptance of his/her pace of doing things, through your refusal to let anxiety pressure you into giving the right answer, and through your example of problem solving through a step-by step process.

Experts (teachers) in a particular field are often so fluent in solving problems from that field that they can find it difficult to articulate the problem solving principles and strategies they use to novices (students) in their field because these principles and strategies are second nature to the expert. To teach students problem solving skills,  a teacher should be aware of principles and strategies of good problem solving in his or her discipline .

The mathematician George Polya captured the problem solving principles and strategies he used in his discipline in the book  How to Solve It: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method (Princeton University Press, 1957). The book includes  a summary of Polya’s problem solving heuristic as well as advice on the teaching of problem solving.

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6 Best + Free Problem Solving Courses [2023 DECEMBER][UPDATED]

20+ Experts have compiled this list of Best Problem Solving Course, Tutorial, Training, Class, and Certification available online for 2023. It includes both paid and free resources to help you learn Problem Solving and these courses are suitable for beginners, intermediate learners as well as experts.

6 Best + Free Problem Solving Courses, Certification & Training [2023 DECEMBER][UPDATED]

Free course trial – effective problem solving & decision making by university of california (coursera).

This program will help you to learn the techniques required to assess problems accurately, evaluate alternative solutions and anticipate the likely risks. Use analysis, synthesis and positive inquiry to address individual and organizational problems and develop the critical thinking skills needed in today’s turbulent times. Along with this, there are case studies, successful models and proven methods that are readily transferable on the job.

Highlights-

– Choose and apply appropriate problem solving and decision-making processes and method.

– Identify common obstacles to effective questions and recognize human variable solving and decision making.

– Assess major conceptual blocks and significant situational challenges

– Apply concepts to enhancing personal development and organizational performance

– Explain the key elements and the barriers associated with them

– Pass the graded assessments and quizzes to earn the course completion certificate.

Duration: 5 hours, 4 to 8 hours per week

Rating: 4.2 out of 5

You can Sign up Here  

Top Problem Solving Courses (Includes Free Courses) (Udemy)

This e-learning platform brings you a series of over 60 courses to help you enhance your problem solving skills irrespective of your current proficiency level. Some of the bestsellers include mastering thinking skills, problem-solving and decision-making strategies, learn techniques for team members and leaders, the psychology of choice and optimizing traveling salesman and vehicle routing problem. If you are unsure about where to start then use the filters available on the website.

Highlights –

– Use methodical approaches to reach the optimal decision.

– Setup and configure the tools that will come in handy for decision making.

– Use metacognition to manage your thinking at a deeper level.

– Think outside the box to solve challenges.

– Build a diverse toolkit that can handle anything issue.

– Use feedback to supercharge your learning and get to your goals faster.

Duration: Self-paced

Rating: 4.4 out of 5

You can Sign up Here

Related: Key Skills for a Middle Level Manager

Effective Problem Solving For Teams (MIT Professional Education)

It is a fact that with evolving technology the challenges, as well as the method of solving them, are also advancing every day. This online micro course addresses them and explores how to grow your organization’s capability of problem solving and prioritizing them which is a key requirement for innovation. Upon the completion of your lessons, you will be able to apply the skills to solve the challenges in your organization. You can also browse through our list of Best Mind Mapping Courses .

– Explore MIT’s unique approach to complex solving techniques.

– Develop a bold and compelling problem statement.

– Techniques that promote creative brainstorming.

– Ways to assess multiple options and choose the best alternative.

– Understand potential barriers to finding innovative solutions and overcome them.

Duration: Self-paced                                                                        

You can Sign up Here 

Critical Thinking and Creative Problem Solving Training (Learning Tree)

If you want to gain the knowledge and skills needed to leverage left and right brain thinking then this is the place to be. Throughout the classes, you will learn to a nalyze problems, spur creativity and implement innovative ideas in a practical way at your workplace. By the end of the lectures, you will be capable of selecting the best decisions given the specific situations.

– Make better decisions and develop your personal creativity.

– Apply processes to assess work issues and problems.

– Each topic is covered in an elaborate manner with proper examples.

– Transform your creativity into practical business solutions.

– Take the Learning Tree end of course exam to earn the certification.

Duration: Self-paced                    

Rating: 4.6 out of 5

Related: Must Have Skills for Customer Experience Managers

Free Problem Solving Techniques Course (LinkedIn Learning)

In this beginner level program, the instructor will take you through the several methods for identifying the actual cause of the problem, including looking at the whole system when a issue is actually a symptom of a larger issue. You will also understand to generate potential solutions using mind maps and decision trees. Push your creativity to come up with more insightful options and use both logic and intuition to select the right solution. Check out our compilation of Best Computational Thinking Courses .

– The videos guide you through all the necessary topics beginning from the introductions to the advanced ones and explains how to make the most of the experience.

-The lectures include a detailed explanation of how to get started with the exercises.

– Exercises are available for online practice as well as for download.

– The option of ‘view offline’ allows you to attend classes without the internet and on the go.

– The training is divided into sections along with relevant exercises and regular quizzes.

-The complete study materials are available for free for a month after signing up on the platform.

– 3 Chapter quizzes + 1 Project file + Access on tablet and phone + Certificate of completion

Duration: 1 hour 32 minutes

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Related: Skills Required to be a Successful Sales Leader

Creative Problem Solving and Decision Making (edX)

Explore complex, multi-actor systems in this certification in which one-factor influences all other factors. All the techniques to make informed and optimal decisions are introduced and then they are applied to practical scenarios. Some of the topics and tools discussed include factor analysis, modeling, goal trees, and means-end diagrams, and scorecards. Ultimately the combination of all the concepts provides a coherent analysis of the problem.  Have a look at our take on Best Design Thinking Course .

– Analytical based support of design and implementation of solutions.

– The lessons are concise and perfectly paced with interactive components which makes it easy to follow.

– The real-world examples and demonstrations make the classes much more interesting and clear.

– Plenty of assignments and exercises to practice the concepts covered in the lectures.

– Build confidence in the concepts with advice and tips from the instructors and world-renowned experts.

– Clear all the graded assignments to get the course completion badge.

– Readings and quizzes are available along with the videos to measure your grasp on the concepts.

– Enrollment is available for free and the certificate can be added for an additional fee.

Duration: 5 weeks of study, 4 to 8 hours per week

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So these were the 6 Best Problem Solving Classes, Courses, Training & Certification available online for 2023. Hope you found what you were looking for. Wish you a Happy Learning!

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Pedagogy in Action

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How to Teach with Faculty-coached, In-class Problem Solving

Jump to: How do I make this approach work for me | How to set up and manage effective groups | How to coach students | How students receive feedback

How to design in-class problems

Concept map

  • Problems requiring model building and other hands-on activities
  • Problems requiring labeled diagrams of a mechanism or process
  • Problems requiring synthesis (for example, a concept map )
  • Checkpoints (problems providing a short immediate review of main concepts before moving on)
  • Analysis-level, context-rich problems
  • Case studies (for example, a case study about single nucleotide polymorphisms ( This site may be offline. ) )
  • Problems that build-in a study technique (for example a problem directing students to interpret a textbook figure)
  • Problems that replace lecture (students use their reading and reasoning skills to independently learn new material--the "you're not going to get this in lecture" type of problem)
  • Problems requiring data analysis, experimental design, or understanding of techniques
  • Optional "challenge problems" that allow students who work quickly to continue to benefit from problem solving time

Homework Problems

To increase individual accountability students are given a homework assignment prior to each exam. These assignments are based on current research and involve students interpreting data, understanding techniques, and synthesizing concepts. At the beginning of a new unit, students are given a science news article summarizing a current finding that relates to the topics that will be covered. Prior to the exam they are given the homework assignment that contains figures from a research paper related to the science news article they read, as well as some background text summarizing the goals of the paper and key techniques. The students must interpret the figures to answer the questions. The final question asks the students to link all of the concepts covered in the unit and to connect those concepts to this research article. They are asked to do this in a diagram form supported by text. (See an example homework problem .)

Problem Keys

Problem keys are essential. In our course, we make the keys available (online) after giving the students time to struggle through the problems on their own (at least two days before the exam). The keys model the problem solving process for the students, and include thorough explanations. The keys provide an opportunity to reteach concepts or to make explicit connections between concepts in response to student performance in class. Keys may include hand drawn figures to mimic student diagrams, as well as computer generated drawings where appropriate. Students may need to be reminded in class to use the answer keys while studying. For an example of a problem key see the RNA processing and Northern blot analysis problem .

How do I make this approach work for me?

The faculty-coached, in-class problem solving approach may require a restructuring of the material in an existing course. Rather than introducing new material primarily through lecture or interactive lecture, in this approach, new material can be presented both by interactive lecture and the problems the students will solve. The problems are not an "add-on" to what is currently being done, but rather can be thought of as a replacement for portions of existing lectures. The function of the lectures is to provide a starting point that allows students to solve the problems.

In designing the shorter, interactive lectures we recognized that covering a topic in class via lecture doesn't automatically mean that students understand and can apply the material. One way we have reduced lecture time is by including fewer historical experiments (although of course we mention key players and their role in science). Instead we incorporate newer experiments into the problems the students solve; this allows us to select a more diverse representation of scientists and exposes the students to current techniques used in biology.

Here are some additional strategies to consider:

  • think restructuring, not "add-on"
  • assign readings before class that will not be reintroduced in lecture
  • convert current homework problems or think-pair-shares into in-class problems
  • occasionally have students begin problems in class, finish at home, and allow time for questions the next day
  • consider moving some of the problems to lab and linking to lab concepts

How to deal with a large class and many groups

How to set up and manage effective groups, related links.

Find more information about student groups in the Cooperative Learning site. Group Size and Composition Potential Challenges

  • set the group size at three students
  • assign groups to avoid individuals feeling excluded
  • assign new groups throughout the term to foster the sense of community in the class
  • provide written guidelines for effective group work
  • summarize team-building skills
  • list the benefits of group work
  • describe the roles often adopted by members of well-functioning groups
  • carefully monitor group interactions while solving problems
  • intervene when groups are not optimizing their potential
  • regroup students in response to particular group situations

How to coach students

Improving self-efficacy: tips for struggling students

  • ask a question in return
  • refer back to the text of the problem, and have students look there for help
  • tell students to look through their class notes for related material
  • remind students the answer to the problem will not be directly stated in their notes
  • encourage students when they get frustrated or overwhelmed
  • recognize when struggling students need an informal review of lecture material on the spot
  • explain to resistant students why particular problems or types of problems are useful to their understanding
  • help students stay focused on the problems at hand
  • encourage students to be metacognitive, and think about how they arrived at a particular solution
  • ensure that each member of the group understands a concept by asking individuals to explain the solution
  • challenge students to understand the relevant concepts behind a solution
  • help students connect solutions back to earlier topics in the course when appropriate
  • provide enrichment to students ready for more of a challenge
  • keep track of common misconceptions encountered by multiple groups, and follow up with lecture or additional problems to reinforce the correct concepts

How students receive feedback

Back to top

Students can check their understanding through:

  • Informal interactions when solving problems
  • Students find out immediately if their solutions agree with those of their group members.
  • Through the process of solving problems, students recognize their points of confusion or their need to review their notes to find information.
  • Frequent interaction with faculty allows students to check their understanding.
  • Exams, quizzes, and graded homework assignments
  • A graded homework assignment for each unit helps students synthesize unit concepts.
  • A quiz shortly before an exam provides individual accountability and helps students prepare for the exam.
  • Multiple exams (including an early, challenging exam) provide multiple opportunities for students to get individualized feedback and respond by changing their study habits.
  • Answer keys
  • Detailed keys for all problems are made available (posted online).
  • These important learning tools model the use of labeled diagrams, contextual information, and multiple solutions where appropriate.

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5 Problem-Solving Activities for the Classroom

Problem-solving skills are necessary in all areas of life, and classroom problem solving activities can be a great way to get students prepped and ready to solve real problems in real life scenarios. Whether in school, work or in their social relationships, the ability to critically analyze a problem, map out all its elements and then prepare a workable solution is one of the most valuable skills one can acquire in life.

Educating your students about problem solving skills from an early age in school can be facilitated through classroom problem solving activities. Such endeavors encourage cognitive as well as social development, and can equip students with the tools they’ll need to address and solve problems throughout the rest of their lives. Here are five classroom problem solving activities your students are sure to benefit from as well as enjoy doing:

1. Brainstorm bonanza

Having your students create lists related to whatever you are currently studying can be a great way to help them to enrich their understanding of a topic while learning to problem-solve. For example, if you are studying a historical, current or fictional event that did not turn out favorably, have your students brainstorm ways that the protagonist or participants could have created a different, more positive outcome. They can brainstorm on paper individually or on a chalkboard or white board in front of the class.

2. Problem-solving as a group

Have your students create and decorate a medium-sized box with a slot in the top. Label the box “The Problem-Solving Box.” Invite students to anonymously write down and submit any problem or issue they might be having at school or at home, ones that they can’t seem to figure out on their own. Once or twice a week, have a student draw one of the items from the box and read it aloud. Then have the class as a group figure out the ideal way the student can address the issue and hopefully solve it.

3. Clue me in

This fun detective game encourages problem-solving, critical thinking and cognitive development. Collect a number of items that are associated with a specific profession, social trend, place, public figure, historical event, animal, etc. Assemble actual items (or pictures of items) that are commonly associated with the target answer. Place them all in a bag (five-10 clues should be sufficient.) Then have a student reach into the bag and one by one pull out clues. Choose a minimum number of clues they must draw out before making their first guess (two- three). After this, the student must venture a guess after each clue pulled until they guess correctly. See how quickly the student is able to solve the riddle.

4. Survivor scenarios

Create a pretend scenario for students that requires them to think creatively to make it through. An example might be getting stranded on an island, knowing that help will not arrive for three days. The group has a limited amount of food and water and must create shelter from items around the island. Encourage working together as a group and hearing out every child that has an idea about how to make it through the three days as safely and comfortably as possible.

5. Moral dilemma

Create a number of possible moral dilemmas your students might encounter in life, write them down, and place each item folded up in a bowl or bag. Some of the items might include things like, “I saw a good friend of mine shoplifting. What should I do?” or “The cashier gave me an extra $1.50 in change after I bought candy at the store. What should I do?” Have each student draw an item from the bag one by one, read it aloud, then tell the class their answer on the spot as to how they would handle the situation.

Classroom problem solving activities need not be dull and routine. Ideally, the problem solving activities you give your students will engage their senses and be genuinely fun to do. The activities and lessons learned will leave an impression on each child, increasing the likelihood that they will take the lesson forward into their everyday lives.

You may also like to read

  • Classroom Activities for Introverted Students
  • Activities for Teaching Tolerance in the Classroom
  • 5 Problem-Solving Activities for Elementary Classrooms
  • 10 Ways to Motivate Students Outside the Classroom
  • Motivating Introverted Students to Excel in the Classroom
  • How to Engage Gifted and Talented Students in the Classroom

Categorized as: Tips for Teachers and Classroom Resources

Tagged as: Assessment Tools ,  Engaging Activities

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Critical thinking definition

class for problem solving

Critical thinking, as described by Oxford Languages, is the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement.

Active and skillful approach, evaluation, assessment, synthesis, and/or evaluation of information obtained from, or made by, observation, knowledge, reflection, acumen or conversation, as a guide to belief and action, requires the critical thinking process, which is why it's often used in education and academics.

Some even may view it as a backbone of modern thought.

However, it's a skill, and skills must be trained and encouraged to be used at its full potential.

People turn up to various approaches in improving their critical thinking, like:

  • Developing technical and problem-solving skills
  • Engaging in more active listening
  • Actively questioning their assumptions and beliefs
  • Seeking out more diversity of thought
  • Opening up their curiosity in an intellectual way etc.

Is critical thinking useful in writing?

Critical thinking can help in planning your paper and making it more concise, but it's not obvious at first. We carefully pinpointed some the questions you should ask yourself when boosting critical thinking in writing:

  • What information should be included?
  • Which information resources should the author look to?
  • What degree of technical knowledge should the report assume its audience has?
  • What is the most effective way to show information?
  • How should the report be organized?
  • How should it be designed?
  • What tone and level of language difficulty should the document have?

Usage of critical thinking comes down not only to the outline of your paper, it also begs the question: How can we use critical thinking solving problems in our writing's topic?

Let's say, you have a Powerpoint on how critical thinking can reduce poverty in the United States. You'll primarily have to define critical thinking for the viewers, as well as use a lot of critical thinking questions and synonyms to get them to be familiar with your methods and start the thinking process behind it.

Are there any services that can help me use more critical thinking?

We understand that it's difficult to learn how to use critical thinking more effectively in just one article, but our service is here to help.

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Mathematics > Optimization and Control

Title: a new global optimization method based on simplex branching for solving a class of non-convex qcqp problems.

Abstract: Quadratic constrained quadratic programming problems often occur in various fields such as engineering practice, management science, and network communication. This article mainly studies a non convex quadratic programming problem with convex quadratic constraints. Firstly, based on our existing results, the problem is reconstructed as an equivalent problem with a simple concave quadratic objective function in the result space, with a convex feasible domain. A global optimization algorithm for solving equivalent problems is proposed based on a branch and bound framework that can ensure the global optimality of the solution. This algorithm combines effective relaxation processes with branching processes related to new external approximation techniques. Finally, the theoretical feasibility of the algorithm was analyzed.

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Oklahoma sooners must solve their offensive line problem heading into 2024, share this article.

There is no doubt the Oklahoma Sooners’ biggest question mark heading into 2024 and their inaugural season in the SEC is the offensive line. The Sooners lose five guys who started a bunch of games last season.

Walter Rouse , McKade Mettauer , Andrew Raym , Cayden Green and Tyler Guyton are gone. Four are off to the NFL . The other found a new home in Missouri. That means the Sooners will have their work cut out for them to replace those five.

Troy Everett played some at guard but started the bowl game at center, which is probably his more natural position. We’ll see if he wins that job, but it appears he’s the leader to take over for Raym. Jacob Sexton started the last few games after Guyton went down with an injury and did pretty well. The Sooners also brought in two transfers Spencer Brown and Febechi Nwaiwu , who look poised to take over at tackle and guard.

But that still leaves spots unfilled. The Sooners are almost certainly going to remain active in the portal, but it’s also possible an incoming freshman gets a look. Most people have assumed that would be Eddy Pierre-Louis , seeing how highly thought of he is. But a constantly mentioned top performer at the Under Armour All-American events is Eugene Brooks .

“I don’t know where it will start for me, but I’m just going to go in there and ball out,” Brooks said. “I’m going to work my butt off. I’m going to go in there every day and give it 110% and be the first one in and the last one out.”

It seems with Brooks, Daniel Akinkunmi , Pierre-Louis, Isaiah Autry and Josh Aisosa , the Sooners have a class of offensive linemen that are physical and bring some nasty back to the offensive line.

That’s something they’ve been missing the last few years, and something we know Bedenbaugh wants out of his linemen. Combine that with what appears to be a strong work ethic from each, and Oklahoma could have a better offensive line class than many thought initially.

Contact/Follow us  @SoonersWire  on Twitter, and like our page on  Facebook  to follow ongoing coverage of Oklahoma news, notes, and opinions. You can also follow Jaron on Twitter  @JaronSpor .

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Social media reacts to the texas longhorns' loss in the sugar bowl, oklahoma sooners 2023-2024 transfer portal tracker, 'i left room for no doubt as the best d-lineman here': david stone stands out at under armour all-american practices, social media reacts to the oklahoma sooners loss to arizona in the alamo bowl, 'i feel like he definitely could be special': daniel akinkunmi turning heads at under armour all-american events, jackson arnold will be better for alamo bowl experience.

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COMMENTS

  1. Best Problem Solving Courses & Certificates Online [2024]

    Learn Problem Solving Online Whether you're just starting out or already have some experience, we offer various Problem Solving courses designed to fit your needs.

  2. Art of Problem Solving

    Art of Problem Solving offers two other multifaceted programs. Beast Academy is our comic-based online math curriculum for students ages 6-13. And AoPS Academy brings our methodology to students grades 2-12 through small, in-person classes at local campuses. Through our three programs, AoPS offers the most comprehensive honors math pathway ...

  3. Online School

    AoPS online math classes prepare gifted middle school and high school students for the rigors of top-tier colleges and internationally competitive careers. ... "I have loved every Art of Problem Solving course I have ever taken, but this one may have been my favorite of all. Every week, I learned many new concepts, and Counting & Probability ...

  4. Effective Problem-Solving and Decision-Making

    Problem-solving is an essential skill in today's fast-paced and ever-changing workplace. It requires a systematic approach that incorporates effective decision-making. Throughout this course, we will learn an overarching process of identifying problems to generate potential solutions, then apply decision-making styles in order to implement and ...

  5. How AoPS Classes Work

    See snapshots of many AoPS class features below. (Note: Some features below are only available in select courses.) Work with instructors and classmates in real-time, receiving one-on-one help as needed. Review class sessions and ask questions outside of class time about classroom discussions.

  6. About the AoPS Classroom

    Actively problem-solve during class. Students learn math by solving problems, not by watching others solve them. In our classes, instructors pose strategic questions that prompt students to come up with solutions, encouraging active engagement rather than rote memorization. Drive the narrative.

  7. Best Critical Thinking Courses & Certificates Online [2024]

    1-3 Months 3-6 Months 6-12 Months 1-4 Years Learning Product Guided Projects Build job-relevant skills in under 2 hours with hands-on tutorials. Courses Learn from top instructors with graded assignments, videos, and discussion forums. Specializations Get in-depth knowledge of a subject by completing a series of courses and projects.

  8. Problem-Solving

    Problem-solving is a universal skill. Its applications aren't limited to your job or what you're working on in class. Maybe you need the best arrangement to hang up some pictures, are setting up a new TV or just want to find somewhere for your team to go for lunch. These are all examples of problems: situations that can be addressed.

  9. Best Online Problem Solving Courses and Programs

    Learn problem-solving skills with online courses delivered by edX. What is problem solving? How problem-solving skills can help your career Problem solving is the process of finding effective solutions to challenges, obstacles, or complex situations.

  10. Introduction to Problem Solving Skills

    What do you do? There are lots of possible solutions. Take your umbrella and walk. If you don't want to get wet, you can drive, or take the bus. You might decide to call a friend for a ride, or you might decide to go to the store another day. There is no right way to solve this problem and different people will solve it differently.

  11. Problem Solving in STEM

    In-class problem solving should reinforce the major concepts from the class and provide the opportunity for theoretical concepts to become more concrete. If students have a problem set for homework, then in-class problem solving should prepare students for the types of problems that they will see on their homework.

  12. Courses Overview

    Self-Paced Courses. We currently offer self-paced Prealgebra 1, self-paced Prealgebra 2, and self-paced Introduction to Algebra A, and are in the process of developing more classes.In these classes, students proceed at their own speed through a series of interactive lessons. These lessons are followed up by readings from the textbook, instructional videos, and challenging homework problems.

  13. AoPS Academy Virtual Campus

    Live virtual math and language arts classes for motivated students in elementary and middle school. Art of Problem Solving AoPS Online. Math texts, online classes, ... Since 1993, Art of Problem Solving has helped train the next generation of intellectual leaders. Hundreds of thousands of our students have gone on to attend prestigious ...

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    These free online courses in problem solving have everything you need to find innovative solutions to tough problems. Strong problem solving skills help you find ways to overcome issues you encounter in your career or personal life. Problem solving skills are highly sought after by employers, and these courses are the perfect way to learn those ...

  15. Teaching Problem Solving

    Two-Column Solution (Physics) Encourage Independence Model the problem solving process rather than just giving students the answer. As you work through the problem, consider how a novice might struggle with the concepts and make your thinking clear Have students work through problems on their own.

  16. How to Develop Problem Solving Skills: 4 Tips

    1. Identify the problem. Whether you're dealing with a complex problem or a relatively simple one, it's vital that you have a clear understanding of what it is that you're hoping to solve. If you're trying to tackle a number of problems (even if they're relatively simple problems) the task becomes much harder.

  17. Teaching Problem Solving

    Problem solving is a "goal-oriented" process that includes creating and manipulating problems as mental models (Jonassen, 2000). Brown faculty from a variety of disciplines were interviewed by Sheridan staff and asked, "What skills do students need to problem solve effectively?" They responded that students need to be able to do the following:

  18. 6 Best + Free Problem Solving Courses [2023 DECEMBER][UPDATED]

    20+ Experts have compiled this list of Best Problem Solving Course, Tutorial, Training, Class, and Certification available online for 2023. It includes both paid and free resources to help you learn Problem Solving and these courses are suitable for beginners, intermediate learners as well as experts.

  19. What is Faculty-coached, In-class Problem Solving?

    In this class format, students work in small groups to solve problems, with professors present during each class to: provide a structured, guided context for solving problems encourage students to shift from learning by memorizing to learning by doing help students develop problem solving strategies assess student learning informally

  20. How to Teach with Faculty-coached, In-class Problem Solving

    Problem set development requires flexibility on the faculty member's part to respond to student needs. Ongoing formative assessments drive the development of new problems (Tanner and Allen, 2004). Although writing problems is a time consuming effort, you can gradually adopt an in-class problem-solving approach.

  21. 3748 Introduction to Algebra A

    AoPS Online classes resume on January 3rd - Enroll today for upcoming Spring courses. Online School ... Online School Introduction to Algebra A (3748) Art of Problem Solving is an ACS WASC Accredited School. aops programs. AoPS Online. Beast Academy. AoPS Academy. About. About AoPS. Our Team. Our History. Jobs. AoPS Blog. Site Info. Terms.

  22. 5 Problem-Solving Activities for the Classroom

    Educating your students about problem solving skills from an early age in school can be facilitated through classroom problem solving activities. Such endeavors encourage cognitive as well as social development, and can equip students with the tools they'll need to address and solve problems throughout the rest of their lives.

  23. Using Critical Thinking in Essays and other Assignments

    Critical thinking definition. Critical thinking, as described by Oxford Languages, is the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement. Active and skillful approach, evaluation, assessment, synthesis, and/or evaluation of information obtained from, or made by, observation, knowledge, reflection, acumen or ...

  24. A New Global Optimization Method Based on Simplex Branching for Solving

    Quadratic constrained quadratic programming problems often occur in various fields such as engineering practice, management science, and network communication. This article mainly studies a non convex quadratic programming problem with convex quadratic constraints. Firstly, based on our existing results, the problem is reconstructed as an equivalent problem with a simple concave quadratic ...

  25. Problem-Solving Training Boosts Psychosocial Health for Parents of

    Jan 02, 2024, 3:55 pm. TUESDAY, Jan. 2, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- For parents of children with chronic health conditions (CHCs), problem-solving skills training (PSST) is associated with improvement in parental, pediatric, and family psychosocial outcomes, according to a review published online Jan. 2 in JAMA Pediatrics.

  26. Oklahoma Sooners must solve their offensive line problem heading into 2024

    There is no doubt the Oklahoma Sooners' biggest question mark heading into 2024 and their inaugural season in the SEC is the offensive line. The Sooners lose five guys who started a ton of games last season. Walter Rouse, McKade Mettauer, Andrew Raym, Cayden Green and Tyler Guyton are all gone. Four of them are off to the NFL, and the other ...

  27. Resources

    Art of Problem Solving offers free resources for avid problem solvers, including games, Alcumus, math videos, the AoPS Wiki, and a LaTeX tutorial.