Problem solving in life is rarely a linear process. In fact, when I think about how I solve problems, I find myself using something like the following process.

Problem solving process


Creative Commons Licence


I try out different strategies for solving the problem, but I don’t start with the same strategy all the time, nor do I follow the same steps. Often I’ll skip some of the strategies above, and I very rarely spend the same amount of time working on each step.

The walk-away step I discovered after I finished school. I realized that I would often solve problems at unexpected times, either when my mind was focused in other areas, or unfocused completely. This is not a uncommon occurence, I have read about and talked to many people who note that the solution to problems came to them in similar circumstances.

How do we teach students about the importance of walking away from a perplexing problem sometimes? Can we trust them to walk away but come back to the problem? How do we show them that problem solving is not a linear process? How can we impart the difference between collaborating with someone else on the solution to a problem, and relying on others to solve problems for us?