Global Issues

future problem solving global issues currency student team

At a Glance

Program Overview

Our Global Issues program uses imagined “what if” future scenarios to describe real world problem situations needing to be solved.

3 Competition Divisions

Junior – Grades 4 to 6
Middle – Grades 7 to 9
Senior – Grades 10 to 12

Team and Individual Options

Students may work on challenges in teams of up to four students or on an individual basis.

5 Annual Topics

Each school year, students get 3-5 opportunities, based on their progress in local and regional competitions, to solve important global challenges.

Student Work Requirements

After researching and analyzing a topic, students get two hours during competitions to complete our 6-step problem-solving process for a given future situation.

Non-Competitive Activities

Teachers often integrate Global Issues topics, future scenes, and problem-solving activities into their classroom curriculum.

Global Issues Problem Solving

How It Works

Students become mini-experts and predict possibilities for the future

Students learn to thoroughly research and analyze real world issues and use our proven 6-step problem-solving method to develop relevant action plans. They apply this knowledge plus divergent and convergent thinking skills to imagined future scenarios in our competitions.

Competition Season

Each school year, two practice problems and one qualifying problem are available for all to complete. Those who qualify for their regional affiliate finals complete a fourth problem challenge for a chance to attend our annual International Conference in June. We announce all four problem topics for the next season on March 1.

Authentic Assessment

Registered students receive feedback from trained evaluators on their submissions for each topic. Our rubric-based evaluations provide learner-focused feedback on each problem-solving step to strengthen student skills and recognize success.

World Finals Qualification

We invite regional affiliate champions to attend our International Conference and compete alongside their peers. We announce a fifth problem topic on March 1 each year for use at our world finals event in June.

Season 2024-2025 Topics

Our real world topics are future-focused

Each year our topics represent important challenges from business, civics, society, science, and technology.

Food Security

How might food security issues of availability, access, and affordability essential for living a healthy life impact society in the future?

Rising Sea Levels

How might we address the impact of rising sea levels on coastlines, industries, and people in the future?


How might the use of nanotechnology in medicine, healthcare, and other industries affect humanity in the future?

6-Step Problem-Solving Method

Our evaluations provide feedback for each problem solving step

Students use the 5Cs of 21st Century Learning throughout the Future Problem Solving process. With each step, they predict possibilities for a topic-related situation 20 to 40 years in the future. Certified evaluators analyze the students’ work from their step one challenges to their step six action plan, providing feedback through authentic assessment.

Identify Challenges

The first step builds a foundational understanding of the problem. Students start by generating important challenges or issues related to the situation across multiple categories. Teams present more ideas than individuals.

Select an Underlying Problem

After analyzing all the possible challenges, students narrow their focus to a single issue area of major importance relative to other situation challenges. 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 address this one problem. Quality, quantity, and the use of a variety of categories are encouraged in this step. Teams present more ideas than individuals.

Select Criteria

At the halfway point, students move to planning for action. In step four, they develop five criteria relevant to their underlying problem, each focused on a single standard, to measure the merit of their solution ideas.

Apply Criteria to Top Solutions

Students complete an evaluation grid by comparing their most promising solutions to their selected criteria. By ranking the solutions against each criterion separately, they determine their best solution. Teams rank more solutions in the grid than individuals.

Develop an Action Plan

The problem-solving process does not end with identifying a solution. Instead, in the final step, students develop a plan of action to both explain their process and implement the best solution to address their underlying problem in the future. The world finals, and most regional affiliate finals, also require a creative presentation or skit of the action plan.

Student Showcase

Lifetime skills on display

The skills our students develop ensure they are well equipped to solve complex problems in their future work and life.


2021 Individual Champion
Junior Division

(North Carolina)

Antibiotic Resistance

2022 Team Champion
Middle Division

Caroline, Sijia, Siqi, and Xin


2020 Individual Champion
Senior Division


problem solving student preparing for global issues action plan skit at world finals

Qualify for International Conference


Questions? Find the answers here.

Find everything else you need to know about Global Issues in our Resources Library. In addition, check out 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.