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Developing Problem Solving in your school

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Developing problem solving is a huge part of the primary curriculum. It encompasses every strand of maths and should be incorporated into each and every maths lesson. Why then is it that it is the area that many schools say they have the most difficulty with?

The workshop developed by Maths Week Ireland aims to help teachers unpick what problem solving really looks like in the classroom and how they can develop it within their pupils. One of the first things addressed in the workshop is 'word problems' and how this is not actually what defines problem solving. Yes it is a part of problem solving but it is only one, very minor part.

Bar modelling is an effective strategy for helping pupils represent word problems. It is a visual representation of a problem and can be used for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. When exposed to it pupils learn how to draw 'bars' to represent the known parts of a problem. It can be best explained using problems. Click here to read about bar modelling.

The other elements to developing problem solving with your pupils include:


Every single lesson in maths should be a problem solving lesson. Click on the headings above to read more about how you can develop this in your classroom.

Some useful problem solving resources:

  • Ten frame: it is important to remember that each box in a ten frame does not always have to represent one. What if each box represented one fifth or 0.1? What would the whole then represent?
  • Part whole model
  • Number Line (0-20)
  • Blank number line
  • Bead strings
  • Any counting object
  • Cuisenaire rods or fraction bars (for use as bar models)


If you are interested in speaking to someone from the Maths Week team about developing problem solving in your school please email