Ideas for organising problem solving exercises

  • Possibly use Roving Ambassadors. Each group decides on something. When decisions have been made, get a member from each group to visit another group to report their findings and possibly give ideas to the group they are with. The roving students then report back to their original groups who can make changes to their decisions, if they want.

Problem solving exercises

Desert Island

  • Stranded on a desert island a long way from anywhere. Fresh water. Banana trees, coconut palms. Climate mild. Make a list of 8 12 things which you think are necessary for your survival.
  • Work individually - then pair up. Come up with common list of 10 items.
  • Now groups of 4 - 6 students. Decide on a list of 8 items. Rank in terms of importance.


  • The earth will be destroyed in three days time by a meteor. A spaceship from another solar system offers to rescue twelve people who can start a new world on an empty planet very much like earth.
  • Imagine you are the selection committee and you have to decide who may be rescued. Think of a list of criteria you would use in your decision.
  • Groups discuss and come up with a list.
  • Each group presents criteria to the class.
  • Option: Could award up to 100 points if candidate gets full marks on all criteria. E.g. appearance 5, intelligence 30, fertility 15, physical fitness 20 e.t.c.
  • Could also provide a list of (unusual) professions, and let them decide which 5 to rescue to start the new colony.


  • Your house is on fire. You have a few minutes to grab 5 of your belongings and rescue them. You have to carry them all. Write them down.
  • Present to group. Group challenges and asks questions. What are most common items? Most unusual?

Stay in Remote House

  • You are staying by yourself in a remote house on the coast of Western Australia. The house is many miles from any town. It has electricity and water and a big store of food. The sea is right there. Which 10 things (e.g. books, musical instruments, equipment for hobbies, materials) would you need to survive the three months without getting bored.
  • Present to group. They ask questions. What are the most common items? The most unusual?

Group Holiday

  • Group of 4 must choose from choice of 8 two week holiday "packages" that they must do together. A decision must be made based on arguments and reasons, not majority vote.
  • Each group presents holiday they have chosen with reasons for their choice.
  • OR: Make it open ended with fixed time and no budget restraint.
  • Discuss in class what students go for in a holiday.