From solving complex algebra problems to investigating scientific theories, to making inferences about written texts, problem-solving is central to every subject explored in school. Even beyond the classroom, problem-solving is ranked among the most important skills for students to demonstrate on their resumes, with 82.9% of employers considering it a highly valued attribute. On an even broader scale, students who learn how to apply their problem-solving skills to the issues they notice in their communities – or even globally –  have the tools they need to change the future and leave a lasting impact on the world around them.

Problem-solving can be taught in any content area and can even combine cross-curricular concepts to connect learning from all subjects. On top of building transferrable skills for higher education and beyond, read on to learn more about five amazing benefits students will gain from the inclusion of problem-based learning in their education:

 

  1. Problem-solving is inherently student-centered.

Student-centered learning refers to methods of teaching that recognize and cater to students’ individual needs. Students learn at varying paces, have their own unique strengths, and even further, have their own interests and motivations – and a student-centered approach recognizes this diversity within classrooms by giving students some degree of control over their learning and making them active participants in the learning process.

Incorporating problem-solving into your curriculum is a great way to make learning more student-centered, as it requires students to engage with topics by asking questions and thinking critically about explanations and solutions, rather than expecting them to absorb information in a lecture format or through wrote memorization.

 

  1. Increases confidence and achievement across all school subjects.

As with any skill, the more students practice problem-solving, the more comfortable they become with the type of critical and analytical thinking that will carry over into other areas of their academic careers. By learning how to approach concepts they are unfamiliar with or questions they do not know the answers to, students develop a greater sense of self-confidence in their ability to apply problem-solving techniques to other subject areas, and even outside of school in their day-to-day lives.

The goal in teaching problem-solving is for it to become second nature, and for students to routinely express their curiosity, explore innovative solutions, and analyze the world around them to draw their own conclusions.

 

  1. Encourages collaboration and teamwork.

Since problem-solving often involves working cooperatively in teams, students build a number of important interpersonal skills alongside problem-solving skills. Effective teamwork requires clear communication, a sense of personal responsibility, empathy and understanding for teammates, and goal setting and organization – all of which are important throughout higher education and in the workplace as well.

 

  1. Increases metacognitive skills.

Metacognition is often described as “thinking about thinking” because it refers to a person’s ability to analyze and understand their own thought processes. When making decisions, metacognition allows problem-solvers to consider the outcomes of multiple plans of action and determine which one will yield the best results.

Higher metacognitive skills have also widely been linked to improved learning outcomes and improved studying strategies. Metacognitive students are able to reflect on their learning experiences to understand themselves and the world around them better.

 

  1. Helps with long-term knowledge retention.

Students who learn problem-solving skills may see an improved ability to retain and recall information. Specifically, being asked to explain how they reached their conclusions at the time of learning, by sharing their ideas and facts they have researched, helps reinforce their understanding of the subject matter.

Problem-solving scenarios in which students participate in small-group discussions can be especially beneficial, as this discussion gives students the opportunity to both ask and answer questions about the new concepts they’re exploring.

 

At all grade levels, students can see tremendous gains in their academic performance and emotional intelligence when problem-solving is thoughtfully planned into their learning.

Interested in helping your students build problem-solving skills, but aren’t sure where to start? Future Problem Solving Problem International (FPSPI) is an amazing academic competition for students of all ages, all around the world, that includes helpful resources for educators to implement in their own classrooms!

Learn more about this year’s competition season from this recorded webinar:    https://youtu.be/AbeKQ8_Sm8U and/or email april@fpspi.org to get started!

The world of business is changing. Consumers no longer rally around the companies that simply create products they love…they want to see companies that support causes that matter to them.

Social entrepreneurship is all about building a business that focuses on solving social issues and enacting change. Social entrepreneurs either form non-profits, or they blend for-profit goals with generating a positive impact on society or their community.

Social entrepreneurship is becoming more and more popular among younger generations, with organizations like SEIF finding that the average age of their social entrepreneur applicants was 34, with most CEOs and Founders being born in the 1990s. HuffPost even found that a staggering 94% of Millennials want to use their skills to benefit a cause.

The economic focus of future generations is clearly shifting from profit to other important priorities like family, community, and the environment, and as a result, there are now many amazing options available for young social entrepreneurs in the competition space!

Check out these six entrepreneurship competitions that provide students with an avenue to grow their social entrepreneurship enterprises, network with other socially-conscious peers, and even earn awards and gain access to resources that will help them throughout their careers.

Rise

Ages 15-17

Free to Apply 

Rise is a competition uniquely designed for students who are passionate about social entrepreneurship. The program allows anyone who applies to join their global network, which connects students to leaders in social entrepreneurship and allows them to access free online courses and opportunities from their partners around the world.

Rise’s Global Winners receive individualized, lifelong support to empower them to achieve their goals and serve others. Winners are invited to a fully-funded, three-week residential summit, receive mentoring and career support, gain access to virtual and in-person leadership and educational courses, earn a four-year scholarship to any accredited university, and are awarded with a technology package.

Lifetime benefits for Rise Global Winners even include graduate-level scholarships, program and internship matching, and ongoing funding opportunities!

 

BizWorld’s Young Entrepreneur Success! Program

Ages 17-19

Free to Register

The YES! Program helps young entrepreneurs develop successful businesses by providing education, tools, and resources. Applicants must submit a professional pitch to be considered, and viable businesses will be selected to participate in the online business Accelerator, receive mentorship, and attend interactive virtual workshops.

Top businesses will have the opportunity to give a live pitch for a chance to receive up to $30,000 in funding for their startup, as well as an entire year of professional support to take their business to the next level.

 

NFTE Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge

Ages 11-18

The NFTE Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge is an eight-month-long series of business plan and pitch competitions that take place at the local, regional and national levels, culminating in a high-stakes national championship in New York City.

The Challenge begins with pitch competitions at the local classroom or camp level. Pitch competition winners have the potential to advance to the regional, then national level. National finalists compete against the best young entrepreneurs from across the country for the chance to win seed capital they can use to grow their business, launch a new business, or pursue their education goals.

 

Blue Ocean

Ages 14-17

Free to Register

The Blue Ocean Competition is an internationally recognized pitch competition for young entrepreneurs, including social entrepreneurs. Thousands of students around the world compete to win cash prizes for their three to five-minute-long business pitches, and are scored based on their innovation and creativity, market potential, feasibility, presentation quality, and use of Blue Ocean concepts.

 

Brower Youth Awards

Ages 13-22

Free to Apply

A great fit for social entrepreneurs in the environmental space, the Brower Youth Award is a program of the Earth Island Institute. Every year, the Brower Youth Award recognizes six young leaders who are making a positive impact on the environment. Brower Youth Award winners must demonstrate excellent leadership, as well as a commitment to the communities their work serves.

Winners’ documentaries are shown on the night of the awards ceremony, and they each have the opportunity to deliver an acceptance speech about their project or campaign. Each winner receives a $3,000 cash prize, and becomes a Brower Youth Awards alumni, keeping them connected with past winners. Leading up to the award ceremony, the New Leaders Initiative provides a week-long forum that includes mentorship, training, visioning, networking, and career coaching to build skills and capacity to effect change.

The program has a deep commitment to elevating voices from socio-economic and culturally diverse backgrounds so that they can move forward as successful innovators and activists.

 

Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes

Ages 8-18

Free to Apply

The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes honors 25 outstanding youth leaders from diverse backgrounds across North America every year. Young leaders and social entrepreneurs are awarded this prize based on their positive impact on people, their communities, and the environment.

Winners receive a $10,000 award, a personalized plaque and certificate, a Young Heroes Materials package, induction into the Barron Prize young heroes network, and print, television, and radio media coverage to extend the reach of their service work.