Students Speak: Thinking Flexibly About Problem Solving

Learning about cognitive flexibility was my favorite part of SMARTS. That’s not something you see in school a lot. Usually it’s like, “Here’s a question, now find the answer.” It was so interesting to think about problems in a different way. —Luke, high school student

The value of teaching flexible thinking, or cognitive flexibility, is often overlooked. Yet, as Luke points out, when you ask students to analyze content from a new angle, it provides a fresh perspective that engages students by asking them to think about things in a different way. SMARTS has a whole unit dedicated to helping students think flexibly, but there are many ways you can add a touch of flexibility to your existing lesson plans.

  • Consider starting the day with a riddle or a puzzle.
  • Model different perspectives for students.
  • Ask students to develop their own counter arguments.


Once you teach students to think flexibly, they will be better at solving problems creatively, shifting between details and the bigger picture, and incorporating different perspectives into their work.

If you’re ready to start promoting flexible approaches to problem solving in your classroom, take a look at our free lesson 1.2 (What is cognitive flexibility?) as well as the overview for unit 3 of the SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum.


—Michael Greschler, EdM, SMARTS Director