# How to introduce problem solving to primary school pupils?

I'm interested into knowing your experiences about introducing problem solving to primary school pupils.

I'm a PhD candidate in Operations Research and, together with my University or my public library, I have organized some laboratories dedicated to problem solving for kids, trying both to entertain children and to make them learn different aspects of mathematics and computer science like they usually see. Up to now, we have used some puzzles and games (like the 15 puzzle), labyrinths, exercises taken from some local competitions (logical, reasoning, counting, etc.). We have shown them a wide range of topics: sorting algorithms, recursion, very simple automa, trees and family relationships, countings, combinatorial examples, cryptography methods (like Caesar's cipher), etc. The primary goal is to let pupils being fascinated by maths, informatics and their several fields and applications. We would like to increase their creativity, reasoning and modeling abilities.

I have attended some university course about teaching and didactic methods, and now I would like to develop a more structured course, probably focused on one subject than on multiple ones. Beyond the topics, anyway, I kindly ask you to share your experiences, what worked and specially what didn't, speaking in terms of didactics methods.

• I don't entirely understand what you're asking here. Are you asking for resources for age-appropriate lessons? – Ben I. May 8 '19 at 20:06
• Not exactly, even if interesting and useful links are always appreciated. I would like to know how other people (CS educators, professors, teachers, researchers) have dealt with this didactic problem in primary schools: if they encounter difficulties, and why, or which kind of path they suggest to follow, which learning methods they used (e.g., cooperative learning, classical lesson with the blackboard, etc.). – Alice Raffaele May 8 '19 at 20:08

I have taught problem solving to older learners who studied a range of diagnostic, design and contingency problems. I'm not sure what age group you are talking about which would be handy to know in answering this question.

This is a diagnostic group activity solvable using informal constraint satisfaction. https://sites.lsa.umich.edu/inclusive-teaching/2017/08/16/who-owns-the-zebra/

Planning activities also work well, surely there will be an end of term party to plan?

• Sorry for the late answer. Thanks for the interesting link! Pupils are usually between 8 and 11 years old. Groups can be heterogeneous (for example during activities in the public library) or homogeneous (students of the same class). In the former case, it's not so easy to find exercises and themes that everyone can do without getting bored or having difficulties. I usually ask, as one of the requirements, the ability of doing simple multiplications but it may be not enough. Instead in classrooms, we usually ask the teachers for some suggestions. – Alice Raffaele Jun 17 '19 at 8:51

There are a couple of resources that you might want to look at.

The first is CS Unplugged which has a lot of resources for learning about computing and algorithms without actually using a computer.

Another that you can mine for ideas is the archive of Creative Computing. Very little of what you will find there is directly usable, but it is a great source of ideas. It was pitched to computer hobbyists of a certain age in a long ago era. But a lot of it is accessible, conceptually, to younger learners. But most of the program code is in BASIC, though it is fairly easy to port to other languages if needed. But the concepts are what makes it valuable.

I especially valued something called the French Military Game (September 1979) which is a simple board game that can be used to introduce simple concepts of AI. The machine learns from its errors.

• I'm already familiar with CS Unplugged, but I didn't know Creative Computing, which seems quite inspiring! Thank you very much, Buffy, for the suggestions. – Alice Raffaele May 8 '19 at 19:58