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Problem/Solution Matchup


This activity encourages students to think about the content of what they are learning through the lens of problem/solution.  They examine a set of “puzzle pieces,” half of them problems, and half of them solutions, all representing texts or topics recently read or studied.  They work to match the problems with the solutions. 
This activity can work to review the plot of novels or short stories, sequences of historical events, and processes/events in science

Learning Strategies 

  • Connecting
  • Determining Importance

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Numeracy
  • Reading

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Academic Vocabulary
  • Building Knowledge in the Discipline


  • Identify a set of texts, topics, or events that you want students to review.  Consider the problems/solutions in these texts/topics/events.
  • Create a puzzle piece template by dividing a regular piece of paper with a jigsaw-puzzle shaped line.  Create multiple copies of this template.  On each template, write a problem on the left-hand side, and a solution on the right-hand side.  Make sure to leave out give-away identifying information such as character names or locations.  Many enough copies for each student or each group.  Then, cut apart the puzzle pieces.
Activity Steps 
  1. Teacher reviews the concept of problem/solution

    Discuss how problem/solution can help students recall sequence/chronology, and how it ties in to understanding character motivation/intention. 

  2. Students get into pairs or small groups. Teacher gives a set of puzzle pieces to each group.

    Depending on the scope of the topics/texts covered, you may want to list them as a reference for students.

  3. Students read through the problem/solution puzzle pieces, discuss what they refer to, and discuss which solutions solve which problems. Students match up puzzle piece pairs.
    Circulate among groups, asking students about what they are noticing and thinking.
    Some pieces may be both a solution, and a new problem, especially in the context of a novel or history.  Discuss these complexities with students as they arise.
  4. Teacher leads students in a discussion, reviewing problems/solutions, and considering how they fit into the context of the texts/topics covered.
    Ask students questions such as:
    • How does each solution solve each problem? 
    • What new problems are created (if any)?
    For narratives or history, ask students to think about what the problems/solutions mean for the characters or people involved: who wanted what?  Who had the problem? What does the solution mean for everybody?
    Ask students to think about how the problems/solutions relate to the sequence of events.
  5. Students reflect on their learning alone or individually, orally or in writing.

    Students should respond to questions including:

    • How does this activity help you remember the order of events/steps?
    • How can problems/solutions help you to understand what you are reading/learning?
    • When else might this activity be useful for you?
Downloadable Resources 
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