Teacher Toolbox
Learning Strategies - Problem Solving

Create a Mental representation

Once the problem is identified, a mental representation needs to be created to show the problem that needs solving.

Connect to Prior knowledge
  • Use scripted analogies, examples. "If I know…then I know…"
  • Complete a brainstorming exercise to cue the students to prior knowledge.
  • Keep informative texts related to the topic visible around the classroom as a visual reminder.
Visual Maps
  • Have children learn to create mental imagery.
  • Have them orally describe characters or objects related to a subject.
  • Direct them to use specific descriptive words as they tell about an item.  For example, have them indicate the pattern on a ball they are describing.
  • Have them use gestures to indicate size, movement, or location and have them reference to themselves – Use prompts such as "Is the boy shorter or taller than you?" to encourage them to gesture.  Gesturing will give insight into their perspectives and views.


Have students draw simple number lines, tally marks and other diagrams to represent numbers, groups, or objects.  Teach them to make charts of the data.

For example:
Tom is taller than Bob can be shown as: T > B therefore B < T.

Have the students create signs or use symbols to represent their problem. 



Have the students construct a model of their problem.  This can be done very simply, using different color and shape of blocks, such as attribute blocks to represent the components and have the student move the blocks as they work through the problem.

Compare, Contrast, Categorize


Use Semantic Feature Analysis or other exercises that help students look at the similarities and differences.

Have the students tell, write or draw their predictions of the outcome before completing the task or assignment.