Problem Solving Activities for Middle School

Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

The activities offered here allow your middle school students to collaboratively solve problems. Students will create their own problems to solve as well as addressing classic mental riddles. Alternatives allow for adjustments based on skill level.

Middle School Problem Solving

Problem solving is an important skill for students to obtain. The only way to really gain this skill is to practice it; students learn while doing and watching others. Middle school students are at a unique age in which they are beginning to be capable of complex abstract thought, but may not be used to working their minds in complex ways.

The activities offered here are designed to give your middle school students practice with problem solving. The activities can be adjusted to suit the skill level of your students.

Riddle Me This

This is an activity that involves the creation and solution of problems.


  • List of problem solving riddles, such as the classic:
    • A man needs to get a dog, a cat and a bird across a river. He can't leave the dog and cat alone, nor the bird and cat alone. He can only take two animals at a time. How can he do it?


  • Divide your class into small groups (3-4).
  • Read an example riddle to your students.
  • Work together to solve the problem.
  • Discuss the parameters of the problem. It must have:
    • Multiple possible ways to solve, with only one method that is correct.
    • A storyline that is simple enough to understand, yet complex enough to create a problem.
  • Now, instruct the groups to compose their own problem solving riddle. They will need the riddle, an answer, and an explanation for the answer.
  • When all the riddles are complete, have groups swap papers and solve each other's riddles.
  • Allow time for each group to read their problems and solutions.


  • You may want to give each group a specific riddle to solve. In this case, you could require the group to make and use props to prove the solution to the problem they have been assigned.

Who Am I?

This activity will have your whole class involved in a single goal.


  • None

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