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Encouraging problem-solving and creative thinking in children

Encouraging problem-solving and creative thinking in children

I have a friend in Australia. When we met some time ago, he told me about his daughter and her school. I was fascinated by the story he told me about how they teach arithmetic to the kids.

Homework one day :List out as many different ways to arrive at the number 100 s you can.

And immediately, children have been taught addition, subtraction multiplication, and division.

Apparently his daughter went back with 10 different ways, all on her own. She refused help from her dad, when he offered to show her more ways.

I thought about this simple way to open up the child’s mind to possibilities. And help her experience the joy of discovering new ways.

In this example if the teacher had given an assignment which asked for answers to “How much is 10×10 or 20 + 5 or 60 – 45” etc, the child could have got only one answer for each problem. By throwing open the possibilities, the child uses addition, subtraction, multiplication and division and gets more than one solution.

We can extend this to many things. My father would often ask “How else can we do it?”. He would want me to try to think of a different way and not worry about whether it is right or wrong. Once there was no pressure of being right I would happily share new ways, some sensible & workable and some impractical. But that did not matter. What mattered was I tried.

For example he would ask “In how many different ways can you go to your school from our home?” To my surprise I found five different routes. Once when the roads were flooded because of heavy rains, this was helpful for me to return home. Another example which comes to my mind. I had to send an important letter to a friend. I could have sent a registered letter with acknowledgment due. It cost more and would have taken longer. I remembered that once I received a letter from some one which had less postage than required. The postman made sure that he collected the dues from me. So I sent the letter with less postage. Sure enough the letter was delivered and my friend had to pay the dues. But the letter reached on time!

The real benefit of this approach is that we automatically start looking for options when we face difficult situations. We start exploring different ways when others are discussing reasons why something went wrong. We develop a ‘solutions’ mind-set and not a post-mortem mind set.


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Sridhar Ramanathan is the Founder of IDEASRS, where he is also a Strategic Innovation Coach. Sridhar’s mission in life is “to help those who want to do things better and differently”. His work involves conducting creative problem solving workshops for clients, and buidling competencies in creativity and innovation. He also blogs at www.ideasrs.com.

2 thoughts on “Encouraging problem-solving and creative thinking in children

  1. Shabeena Ali

    Hey! Sridhar,

    I have started WOW! Thinkers in Bangalore, which also endeavors to teach children aged 7- 10 years, to think creatively, think of many different perspectives and many solutions.
    I also use fun and interactive activities to help children and its pure joy to see them come up with so many different answers :)


  2. Harish Murali

    These are rather interesting ideas that will keep the kids engaged and also provide them with further opportunities to think and perform. The Cambridge Junior School is one of the top playschools in Bangalore.


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