Problem Solving Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Problems come in all shapes and sizes, and so do solutions. Help your students learn different problem solving methods using this engaging video based lesson plan. Next, students define types of problems, then identify solutions using familiar text.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • identify and name label types of problems
  • describe solutions to differing problems
  • apply understanding of problem solving using familiar text


  • 50 minutes


  • Samples of familiar text, such as summaries of novels read, fairy tales, or short stories
  • Chart paper

Key Vocabulary

  • Problem solving
  • Well-defined problem
  • Poorly-defined problem
  • Routine problem
  • Non-routine problem
  • Critical thinking
  • Algorithm
  • Heuristics
  • Graphic representation
  • The IDEAL Strategy
  • Identify
  • Define
  • Explore
  • Anticipate
  • Look

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.9-10.3

Follow precisely a complex multi-step procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks, attending to special cases or exceptions defined in the text.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.9-10.4

Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 9-10 texts and topics.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.9-10.5

Analyze the structure of the relationships among concepts in a text, including relationships among key terms (e.g., force, friction, reaction force, energy).


  • To hook students to the topic, ask them to think of a problem they're currently having and write it down. Ensure it will remain private. When complete, have them tuck it away for later.
  • Tell students they will be learning to label and solve problems using several strategies.
  • Share prior knowledge, then start the video lesson Types of Problems & Problem Solving Strategies. Preview vocabulary words if desired.
  • Instruct students to take notes; write key terms and ideas on the board as the video plays.
  • Pause the video at 3:10. Identify a familiar story, such as a fairy tale or a book your class has read recently. Discuss the information specifically in relation to the story. For example:
    • Is Little Red Riding Hood's problem well-defined of poorly-defined? Why?
    • Is her problem routine or non-routine? Why?
    • What critical-thinking skills can she use to help solve her problem?
  • Ask students to consider their personal problem and determine what category it fits into, then restart the video.
  • Pause at 6:08 and discuss:
    • When is a good time to use an algorithm? Why?
    • Which strategy is good for quick, shortcut solutions?
    • When was the last time you used a heuristic solution?
    • What are some examples of graphic representation solutions?
    • When was the last time you used a graphic representation to help solve a problem?
  • Restart the video. Allow students to ask questions and complete note-taking, then ask students to talk to a partner or group about the IDEAL method.
  • Listen in to conversations, prompting students to ask high-level questions and apply to personal lives.
  • Return to your familiar story and ask students to brainstorm ways the characters could solve their problems using these methods. Which will work best? What does that look like?

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