5Cs of Learning

young students writing problem solving booklet

Our Approach

Empowering learners with the workforce skills they need

Our interdisciplinary process infuses important 21st Century Learning skills throughout all our problem-solving programs. Curious students apply both critical and creative thinking skills, collaborate with others, and clearly communicate their ideas and solutions when confronting challenges. Through the experiences they gain applying their skills to real world situations, students also demonstrate care for others as they learn to think and gain the skills they need to build productive futures.

According to the World Economic Forum, the increasing relevance of complex problem solving in the workplace drives many findings in their 2023 Future of Jobs Report. Prominently featuring our 5Cs of learning, they identified the top core skills required by workers as well as the fastest growing required skills.

Yet, today’s educators find it challenging to fully address gaps in these career readiness skills while also balancing their state and national education standards. Future Problem Solving helps fill in the gaps with standard-based and skill-based resources to meaningfully engage students. Students gain broad general knowledge, a deeper understanding, and empathy as they apply higher-order thinking and complex problem-solving skills.

Why It Works

Preparing for success

The skills problem solvers learn ensure they are ready to succeed today and in their work and life tomorrow.
It’s not math. It’s not science. It’s life and that’s much more deep than anything we get into in the classroom. Future Problem Solving is probably the most practical academic competition there is.
faith click testimonial
Faith Click

I love to speak and inform others about the importance of the education of creativity and to help people think creatively and critically. Future Problem Solving helps students and their parents (gain) creativity education.
no photo
Yung Che Kim
South Korea Future Problem Solving
(Affiliate Director)
Future Problem Solving has shaped the way I view situations and approach life challenges. Sometimes, we have a tendency to focus on the smallest issues or concerns but don’t take a bigger look at the whole picture. This teaches you to recenter on an underlying concern that is manageable and makes a big impact.
ashley kessler testimonial
Ashley Kessler
Mathematics Teacher

21st Century Learning

All our programs embody the 5Cs

Future Problem Solving embodies the principles of 21st Century Learning through the 5Cs and our belief in the importance of lifelong learning. These skills guide all we do for learners.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking and problem solving go hand in hand. Students build convergent thinking skills as they become adept at research, analysis, and evaluation. By helping students go beyond memorization and information recall, we seek to empower youth with the thinking skills they need to shape their own futures and become successful global citizens.


Creativity and problem solving are mutually dependent. By brainstorming with divergent thinking skills, students learn to think outside the box and broaden their perspectives. Students become adept at developing novel ideas and evaluating, elaborating on, and refining their ideas.


In Future Problem Solving, the inclusion of all perspectives and ideas leads to the best solutions and helps our students refine their voices. They gain a platform to practice and grow their listening and communication skills in a variety of spaces, environments, and contexts.


Our problem solvers typically work in teams to achieve common goals. Our vibrant global community also takes collaborative learning to a deeper level and encourages all students to pay it forward by volunteering to help others in the program to create positive change in the world.


By appreciating the needs and feelings of those around them, our problem solvers learn how to help make a difference in others' lives and become part of the solution. By learning to recognize and understand the needs of others with each real world issue, students gain exposure to important perspectives.

Education Standards

Our problem-solving process connects to education standards

Since Future Problem Solving aligns with a wide variety of education standards, it is easy to tailor program content to meet  ​​specific education system and local requirements as needed.


Future Problem Solving thought leadership

By proudly partnering with any and all organizations committed to supporting today’s students and their educators, we ensure that together we continue to create generations of curious learners ready for the future.


The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognizes Future Problem Solving as a teaching strategy that promotes problem solving skills in their Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) program. UNESCO provides Future Problem Solving activities for immediate use by global educators to empower learners of all ages to make informed decisions and take individual and collective action to change society and care for the planet.


The Partnership for 21st Century Learning (P21) highlighted Future Problem Solving and the role critical thinking plays in each program in its 4Cs Research Series “What We Know About Critical Thinking.”


In 2016, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) honored Future Problem Solving with its Annemarie Roeper Global Awareness Award for providing opportunities for students to understand varying perspectives and to grapple with complex issues, promoting positive social action, fostering caring for the Earth, facilitating interaction among different cultures, and offering a venue to respond to concerns about the future.


Future Problem Solving Students – A Five Year Study


A Comparison of Reading and Mathematics Performance Between Students Participating in a Future Problem Solving Program and Nonparticipants

Data from the The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) was collected by Grandview Middle School and provided to Scholastic Testing Service, Inc. for statistical analysis.

Findings reported by Scholastic Testing Service, Inc. Performance data on the MCA was collected from 2010-2014 for students in grade 6 at Grandview Middle School in Mound, MN (Westonka Public School District). Students were identified as either FPS: students participating in a Future Problem Solving program, or Non-FPS: students not participating in the program. Summary statistics using Reading and Mathematics Scaled Scores were developed for each group of students by year and across years. To determine if the mean scores across the years were significantly different, t-tests were used. A Cohen’s d test was then performed to measure the effect of the size of the found differences.

In all cases, students participating in the Future Problem Solving Program performed significantly higher on the MCA in both areas of Mathematics and Reading.

Effects of Group Training in Problem-Solving Style on Future Problem-Solving Performance


The Journal of Creative Behavior (JCB) of the Creative Education Foundation

Seventy-five participants from one suburban high school formed 21 teams with 3–4 members each for Future Problem Solving (FPS). Students were selected to participate in either the regular FPS or an enhanced FPS, where multiple group training activities grounded in problem-solving style were incorporated into a 9-week treatment period.

An ANCOVA procedure was used to examine the difference in team responses to a creative problem-solving scenario for members of each group, after accounting for initial differences in creative problem-solving performance, years of experience in FPS, and creative thinking related to fluency, flexibility, and originality. The ANCOVA resulted in a significant difference in problem-solving performance in favor of students in the treatment group (F(1, 57) = 8.21, p = .006, partial eta squared = .126, medium), while there were no significant differences in years of experience or creativity scores. This result led researchers to conclude that students in both groups had equivalent creative ability and that participation in the group activities emphasizing problem-solving style significantly contributed to creative performance.

In the comparison group, a total of 47% had scores that qualified for entry to the state competition. In contrast, 89% of the students in the treatment group had scores that qualified them for the state bowl. None of the teams from the comparison group qualified for the international competition, while two teams from the treatment group were selected, with one earning sixth place.

The results of this study suggest that problem-solving performance by team members can be improved through direct instruction in problem-solving style, particularly when there is a focus on group dynamics.

The Journal of Creative Behavior, Vol. 0, Iss. 0, pp. 1–12 © 2017 by the Creative Education Foundation, Inc. DOI: 10.1002/jocb.176

Future Problem Solving Program International—Second Generation Study


“How important was Future Problem Solving in the development of your following skill sets?”

In 2011, a team of researchers from the University of Virginia submitted a report titled “Future Problem Solving Program International—Second Generation Study.” (Callahan, Alimin, & Uguz, 2012). The study, based on a survey, collected data from over 150 Future Problem Solving alumni to understand the impact of their participation in Future Problem Solving as students or volunteers.

Percentage of Alumni Rating Important and Extremely Important in Developing Skill Sets
  • 96% Look at the “Big Picture”
  • 93% Critical Thinking
  • 93% Teamwork and Collaboration
  • 93% Identify and Solve Problems
  • 93% Time Management
  • 90% Researching
  • 90% Evaluation and Decision Making
  • 86% Creativity and Innovation
  • 86% Written Communication
The report captured alumni’s positive experiences as students in Future Problem Solving and documented that the alumni continued to utilize the FPS-structured approach to solving problems in their adult lives.

Evaluation of the Future Problem Solving Program


Data was obtained from 220 coaches, 633 students, 195 parents, and 34 affiliate directors nationally and internationally

The Center for Creative Learning, USA (Treffinger, Selby, and Crumel) completed an international evaluation of Future Problem Solving including three competitive programs (Global Issues, Community Projects, and Creative Writing). Surveys ascertained 1,082 respondents’ views of: the extent to which Future Problem Solving and its programs meet their stated goals, the strengths of the programs and areas for improvement, and the impact of the program on its participants.

All respondents with current experience participating in each program rated a comprehensive list of 11-12 skills using a 5-point Likert scale. The adult groups identified the impact on participating students’ learning and growth, and the students identified what skills their participation helped them with the most.

Top 5 Most Impactful Skills Identified by Program


Adults – Coaches and Affiliate Directors (151)

  • Learning about complex issues that will shape the future (4.60)
  • Developing teamwork and collaboration, working together and cooperating with each other (4.39)
  • Fostering critical thinking (the ability to sort and sift information or to focus one’s thinking) (4.29)
  • Developing an active interest in the future (4.29)
  • Developing the skills needed to manage time effectively (4.02)


Students (242)

  • Learning about topics that will have important effects on the future. (4.14)
  • Working together and cooperating with others (4.13)
  • Thinking of many different and unusual ideas (3.99)
  • Helping become a better leader (3.90)
  • Deciding on the best solution to a problem (3.87)



Adults – Coaches and Affiliate Directors (64)

  • Enhancing the skills of preparing and delivering materials and/or presentations that communicate ideas effectively (4.76)
  • Developing teamwork and collaboration (working together, cooperating with each other)(4.56)
  • Developing leadership skills (4.56)
  • Showing evidence that team members are able to apply FPS skills in other situations (4.30)
  • Developing the skills needed to manage time effectively (4.27)


Students (107)

  • Working together and cooperating with others (4.33)
  • Feeling that I can make a difference in shaping the future (4.13)
  • Deciding on the best solution to a problem (4.07)
  • Helping me become a better leader (3.97)
  • Thinking of many different and unusual ideas (3.96)



Adults – Coaches and Affiliate Directors (82)

  • Enhancing and expanding writing skills (4.39)
  • Developing an active interest in the future (4.11)
  • Learning about complex issues that will shape the future (4.10)
  • Thinking and researching futuristically (4.06)
  • Fostering creative thinking (the ability to generate many, varied, and unusual options (3.98)


Students (146)

  • Thinking and researching futuristically (4.08)
  • Developing better writing skills (4.05)
  • Learning about topics that will have important effects on the future (3.99)
  • Thinking of many different and unusual ideas (3.92)
  • Finding information in many different places (3.69)


Note, 88% of parents were satisfied with the Future Problem Solving program their youngster(s) participated in and a majority of parents with eligible students anticipated a high level of interest in participating again next year (60.9%).

Alumni Top 5 Most Impactful Skills on Their Development

A group of 48 alumni also responded to surveys focused on their past experiences and the impact those experiences had on their development into adulthood. Approximately 8 in 10 reported Future Problem Solving was very helpful or extremely helpful in secondary school (81%), in academic work after high school (78%), and in other life experiences outside school or academic work (81%). Looking back on their experience, the aspects below were rated the five most important and valuable.

  • Learning ways to think of many different and unusual ideas (4.75)
  • Learning how to choose the best solution for a problem (4.42)
  • Learning how to work or collaborate with others (4.41)
  • Developing better writing skills (4.36)
  • Learning a specific process for solving problems (4.35)
Results indicated strong overall satisfaction with Future Problem Solving among all stakeholder groups, as well as evidence of positive impact on academic and real-life accomplishments and personal relationships.


5-point Likert scale:
Adults: 1 = Little or no impact, 2 = Limited impact, 3 = Moderate impact, 4 = High impact, 5 = Exceptional impact
Students: 1= Hasn’t helped me at all, 2 = Helped me just a little, 3 = Helped me = “Okay”, 4 = Helped me quite a bit, 5= Really a great help to me
Alumni: 1=Not Important, 2=Of Little Importance, 3=Somewhat Important, 4=Very Important, 5=Extremely Important

April Michele

April Michele Bio

Executive Director

A seasoned educator, April Michele has served as the Executive Director since 2018 and been with Future Problem Solving more than a decade. Her background in advanced curriculum strategies and highly engaging learning techniques translates well in the development of materials, publications, training, and marketing for the organization and its global network. April’s expertise includes pedagogy and strategies for critical and creative thinking and providing quality educational services for students and adults worldwide.

Prior to joining Future Problem Solving, April taught elementary and middle grades, spending most of her classroom career in gifted education. She earned the National Board certification (NBPTS) as a Middle Childhood/Generalist and later served as a National Board assessor for the certification of others. In addition, April facilitated the Theory and Development of Creativity course for the state of Florida’s certification of teachers. She has also collaborated on a variety of special projects through the Department of Education. Beyond her U.S. education credentials, she has been trained for the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (MYP) in Humanities.

A graduate of the University of Central Florida with a bachelor’s in Elementary Education and the University of South Florida with a master’s in Gifted Education, April’s passion is providing a challenging curriculum for 21st century students so they are equipped with the problem-solving and ethical leadership skills they need to thrive in the future. As a board member in her local Rotary Club, she facilitates problem solving in leadership at the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA). She is also a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) from the Project Management Institute and earned her certificate in Nonprofit Management from the Edyth Bush Institute at Rollins College.