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STOPS Problem Solving

STOPS Problem Solving (Sequenced Teaching of Problem Solving)


As part of our current research-based school development plan (KAR – Key Areas of Research) all year groups take part in a weekly STOPS lesson. Children are taught all known strategies, to help them tackle problem solving/reasoning questions with independence and confidence. There are nine strategies in total:


Act it out – Physically act out (in KS1) and/or draw out (in KS2) the situation presented in the maths problem

Trial and Error – Trial different answers until the correct one is found

Trial by improvement – Remove possible answers, until the correct answer remains. This strategy also helps children decide which pieces of information are important

List or Table – Solve problems by writing the information in an organised list or table. This allows children to discover relationships and patterns within the data

Find a Pattern – Look for patterns in the data, in order to solve the problem. Children will look for items or numbers that are repeated, or a series of events that repeat

Simplify – Often used alongside other strategies. When a problem is too complex to solve in one step, it often helps to divide it into simpler problems and solve each separately

Working Backwards – Starting at the answer, the children develop a strategy that leads them to the solution by working back through the process

Algebra – If the problem involves numbers and number operations. A maths sentence or expression with numbers or symbols (such as an equation) can help make the solution clearer.

Bar Modelling – Bar models are used to show pictorial representations of problems or concepts that can be used for any of the operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. In word problems, bar models hold the huge benefit of helping children decide which operations to use or visualise the problems