Problem Solving in Four Phases

Using Polya’s four phases of problem solving - UNDERSTAND, PLAN, SOLVE, and REVIEW - students work becomes dynamic, iterative and metacognitive. Students unfamiliar with this process may need guidance to start, work, reflect and connect. This might initially be sequential but does not need to stay as a linear process.


With the App

With the Graphic Organizer

Spark interest in four phases of problem solving by showing students a submitted thinklet you created or from the community gallery. Do NOT show the “swipe” of details. Prompt students to contribute what they imagine the thinklet author included in UNDERSTAND, PLAN and REVIEW.

Students use an electronic or paper copy of the graphic organizer to prepare their thinking. This could be done solo or as a whole class or small group “gallery walk” rotation. Have students work on one phase then pass the organizer to a classmate to add to/continue the thought process.

Graphic Organizer

Full page included with this episode. The graphic organizer can also be used when tablet or internet access is limited in the classroom or at home.

Download Graphic Organizer


Customize the graphic organizer for your class with student contributions by:
1. Using language and vocabulary your students are familiar with.
2. Translating for OR as a translation activity with English Language Learners.
3. Overlaying the eight standards for mathematical practice. using post-it notes to highlight a specific learning objective related to the a problem or scenario. One example, have students consider where precision or strategic tools selection surfaces in the the problem solving process.

Addresses All the Math Practice Standards

Mathematically proficient students...“… attitudes of mind, the habit of methodical work.” Polya