Unit 1 - Problem Solving - Computers and Logic

Chapter 1: The Problem Solving Process

Big Questions

  • What strategies and processes can I use to become a more effective problem solver?

Week 1

Lesson 1: Intro to Problem Solving

In this lesson, students work in groups to design aluminum foil boats that will support as many pennies as possible. Groups have two rounds to work on their boats, with the goal of trying to hold more pennies than they did in round 1. The structure of the activity foreshadows different steps of the problem solving process that students will be introduced to in more detail in the following lesson. At the end of the lesson students reflect on their experiences with the activity and make connections to the types of problem solving they will be doing for the rest of the course.

Lesson 2: The Problem Solving Process

This lesson introduces the formal problem solving process that students will use over the course of the year, Define - Prepare - Try - Reflect. The lesson begins by asking students to brainstorm all the different types of problems that they encounter in everyday life. Students are then shown the four steps of the problem solving process and work together to relate these abstract steps to their actual experiences solving problems. First students relate these steps to the aluminum boats problem from the previous lesson, then a problem they are good at solving, then a problem they want to improve at solving. At the end of the lesson the class collects a list of generally useful strategies for each step of the process to put on posters that will be used throughout the unit and year.

Lesson 3: Exploring Problem Solving

In this lesson students apply the problem solving process to three different problems in order to better understand the value of each step. They will solve a word search, arrange seating for a birthday party, and plan a roadtrip. The problems grow increasingly complex and poorly defined to highlight how the problem solving process is particularly helpful when tackling these types of problems. The lesson concludes with students reflecting on their experience with the problem solving process. They will justify the inclusion of each step and will brainstorm questions or strategies that can help them better define open-ended problems, as this is often the most critical step.


This chapter guides students to develop and adopt a more formal structured problem solving process by reflecting on problems they have successfully solved, both in the classroom and everyday life. By working through a diverse set of probems, such as logic puzzles, engineering challenges, and planning a road trip, students will learn to identify different classes of problems, decompose large problems, and develop their personal problem solving skills.