At a Glance

Program Overview

The flexible Challenges program, our newest offering, does not require any prior Future Problem Solving experience or affiliation.

1 Competition Division

Grades 5 to 9

Groups of 1-4

Students may work on challenges alone or in teams of 2-4 students. All compete together in one open division, no matter the number of students working on a submission.

Select Topics

Some of the Challenges are adapted from previous Global Issues topics while others are designed in partnership with experts in the topic field specifically for World Solutions Challenge events.

Student Work Requirements

Students get a 2-3 week window to analyze a specific near-future problem and use our 6-step problem-solving process to develop an action plan. For reference, students competing in our flagship Global Issues program research their topic extensively prior to competition and then must complete all their work within two hours.

Non-Competitive Activities

Individual Challenges may be integrated into classroom curriculum or youth out-of-school activities independently for students in grades 4-12.

How It Works

Virtual, asynchronous challenges make learning problem-solving skills fun

Students learn to analyze real world issues and use our proven 6-step problem solving method to develop relevant action plans. They apply this knowledge plus critical and creative thinking skills to solve near-future problems using our provided resources.

2-3 Weeks

Designed for flexibility, these bite-sized, on-demand Challenges may be completed at any time or as part of one of our virtual, asynchronous World Solutions Challenge events. Each competition period consists of an open 2-3 week window when all activities are accessible for students to learn and work as they like. Some complete everything “at once” in a single (long) session, while others prefer to meet for two or more sessions during the window to tackle the problem a little at a time.


Students use FPSOnline to access all Challenge activities, complete the 6-step problem-solving process, and submit their step six action plan for competition events.

Authentic Assessment

Registered students receive feedback from trained evaluators on their action plan submissions for competition events. Our rubric-based evaluations provide learner-focused feedback to strengthen student skills and recognize success. For those using a Challenge independently, the program materials include an evaluation guide and there are opportunities, for an additional fee, to submit work and receive formal feedback.


Recent Topics

Our real world topics are future-focused

Our Challenge topics represent important global problems from business, civics, society, science, and technology. If your organization would like to submit or sponsor a new Challenge topic, please contact us directly.

Personalized Medicine

How might advances in technology and medical research change how we prevent, diagnose, or treat disease in the future?

6-Step Problem-Solving Method

Our problem-solving process builds workforce readiness skills

Students across the world use the 5Cs of 21st Century Learning throughout the Future Problem Solving process. With each step, they predict possibilities in the near-future to an important global problem and develop their problem-solving skills. While doing so, they model the hope and resilience necessary to succeed in work and life and be prepared for the future.

Identify Challenges

The first step builds a foundational understanding of the problem. Students start by generating important challenges or issues related to the situation. Idea generation and focus tools like our categories list help spark ideas.

Select an Underlying Problem

After analyzing all the possible challenges identified, students narrow their focus to a single issue area of major importance. They complete the step by articulating the underlying problem they plan to solve.

Produce Solution Ideas

With their underlying problem selected, students shift to generating solutions to resolve it. Variety is encouraged.

Select Criteria

At the halfway point, students move to planning for action. They develop criteria to measure the merit of their solution ideas.

Apply Criteria to Top Solutions

Students complete an evaluation grid with their best solutions and student-designed criteria to identify their most promising solution. They rank their solutions against each criteria separately and then total the points to find the best solution.

Develop an Action Plan

In the final step, students develop a written plan of action to explain and implement the best solution to address their underlying problem. In competitions, only the action plan is judged. While not required, some students may also choose to make a short video with a creative presentation or skit of their action plan.

World Solutions Challenge

2023 Spotlight

In the inaugural World Solutions Challenge in late 2023, 95 teams submitted action plans solving a core problem related to rapidly evolving Artificial Intelligence (AI). Sponsored by the Oxford Artificial Intelligence Society, the sold out AI competition included students from Australia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, and the U.S.

2023 World Solutions Challenge Winners

Student Showcase (AI)

The skills students develop ensure they are equipped to solve real problems in their community and future work and life.
AI project source facts label

Source Facts Sheet

First Place
Solution: A tool designed to assess the credibility of AI-generated information in internet searches and present the information simply.



Second Place
Solution: A comprehensive approach to P – Privacy, R – Responsive, O – Operational, T – Technology, E – Ensuring, C – Customer, and T – Trust.

Arsal, Rachel, and William
(New York)

student winners team photo AI Truthfinder action plan


Third Place
Solution: An AI tool that ranks articles from 1-5 according to how trustworthy they are, backed by a board of scientists.

Abby, Jonna, Julia, and Sage



Questions? Find the answers here.

Find everything else you need to know about Challenges in our Resources Library. In addition, check the answers to other common Future Problem Solving questions.

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.