"Try and fail but don't fail to try."
~ Stephen Kaggwa

The Four Steps of Problem Solving 

                        (1) Understand
                        (2) Plan
                        (3) Solve
                        (4) Look Back


For Parents:

The focus of TP's is not always on the right answer but HOW the student and their classmates got an answer. Please feel free to try them as well, but this activity is NOT about how YOU got the answer.  Please do not spoil your child's chance to have a Eureka! moment.
Thinking Problems are also NOT intended to be a group project and must be done independently.  If your child is stuck after working for 15 minutes on their own, they may ask for guidance on what PLAN to use. 
Remember this famous advice:  Give someone a fish and they have food for a day. Teach them how to fish and they have food everyday. 

For Students:

Don't be afraid of being wrong!  Just TRY!!! Trying does not mean scribbling something down after thinking about it for less than 2 minutes. Look through your list of plans and experiment with different ones.
Don't forget to include a plan number in the box.

Your "I will..." is more important than your IQ.  Avoid "I don't get it" or giving up quickly...

Creative Problem Solving Requires TIME!!!

YouTube Video


What is an example of a Thinking Problem?
This is one of Mr. P's favorites!  A true classic.

Can I get help from a parent?
On the solution: NO
On the plan: YES

Can I use the internet?
Generally: NO

If you need a list of prime numbers to HELP solve a problem, you are more than welcome to find a list online.
Or if you don't know what a word/concept means, feel free to look it up with Google.
Searching straight for the solution is NOT the point of the exercise.

Looking for more challenging math problems?
Try these links:
Are mental math and logic skills important for TP's?
YES! But those students who ONLY rely on those skills will struggle with these questions all year.
Having a visual representation and being able to actually manipulate objects helps tremendously.

Having trouble with Thinking Problem #1?
Here are some tips:
    (1) Downloading the Excel file below might help.
    more tips to come...
    (2) Did you try Hannah's Method?
    (3) Check out this link that COMBINES both strategies: 
    Make sure you select "4" from the drop down menu. 
    Drag the numbers to the open spots.
Interested in Number Theory?
Here are some topics:

What is a dollar word? 
Might help for one problem...
SelectionFile type iconFile nameDescriptionSizeRevisionTimeUser
View Download
Very helpful for TP48  24k v. 1 Jan 14, 2013, 11:25 AM Ken Prothero
View Download
Print and cut out to use as manipulatives.  13k v. 2 Feb 17, 2011, 12:00 PM Ken Prothero
View Download
  93k v. 1 Sep 18, 2014, 10:31 AM Ken Prothero