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Problem solving exercises for SATs

Boy concentrating on work
Problem solving is something we do constantly. Help your child develop their skills with our top activities to get them prepared for their SATs – and problem solving in everyday life.

You may think that problem solving is reserved for maths lessons. However, the ability to decipher and disentangle problems is, in fact, a vital part of your child's educational experience across the curriculum. 

Children will be asked to use problem solving skills to provide responses to a variety of different questions in many subject areas, both in their SATs and in day to day learning.
Problem solving requires multi-level thinking, asking the pupil to dismantle a question into a series of sub-questions, leading them to a variety of possibilities which need their consideration and analysis. Exploring all possibilities, using strategies and developing ideas and methods are important aspects of problem solving across the Key Stages.
Bring out the natural problem-solver in your child with these activities designed to help them get a head start at home.

Key Stage 1

Give your child a scenario, such as going to the park – what might happen, what might they see? Ask them to compose a story about it and provide them with a variety of different objects or props they could include. Encourage them to consider the structure of the story, such as the beginning, middle and end.
They could then begin by drawing out a cartoon strip. When they are ready to start writing, they can use this to refer to. They can then add more detail and choose from a range of vocabulary to build up the story. This form of problem solving will help them explore different ideas to come to a unique answer.

Key Stage 2

Provide your child with a brief, such as ‘I need a musical instrument which makes a variety of different noises and can be played in different ways'. On the table have a selection of different materials, such as elastic bands, dried pasta or beans, empty plastic containers, sticky tape, string, glue, and paint.
Your child can then select from these materials and decide how they can produce an instrument which answers your brief. They will explore different methods to reach an end result. Get them to explain how they carried out the task.
A great way to help them use problem-solving skills and get them thinking about budgeting, healthy eating and planning, is to ask them to have a go at cooking a meal for the family. You could supply a selection of recipes and then provide your child with a budget which you feel is appropriate and accompany them to the shops. They will need to think about how many people will be eating, any dietary requirements, and the budget they must stick to.
Once ingredients are bought, they will need to think about the timing of preparation and cooking, and follow the instructions on the recipe, problem solving as they progress. It’s a fun activity and will give your child the confidence to make independent choices.
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