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Every subject has "problems" in the sense of goals that need to be reached, where the way to reach the goal is not automatic and requires thinking. While this book was in preparation, for example, economists and political leaders were trying to solve a big "problem": what combination of policies and strategies would have the most positive effect on jobs, money flow, and the stock market, to address the problem of a global recession. Not every problem is quite as complex and far-reaching as this one. However, this illustration shows that there are "problems" in every discipline.
What Is Problem Solving?
A good problem solver identifies exactly what the problem is, what might be obstacles to solving it, and what solutions might be expected to work. A good problem solver then tries at least one of the solutions. For more complex problems, a good problem solver can prioritize and evaluate the relative effectiveness of different solution strategies (Marzano et al., 1993). If a problem presents something so well known to a student that he or she can complete the task without having to reason, the student does not have to use problem-solving skills, and the scenario is not really a "problem" for that student.