Celebrating 50 Years and Beyond (1974-2024) at our International Conference June 5-9, 2024

Our Impact

Future-Ready

Problem-solving skills students learn stay with them for life

Our proven educational outcomes are life changing for students. At the heart of Future Problem Solving, our nearly one million alumni provide the most valuable evidence. We are inspired by them and all who help us build a vibrant global community of problem solvers ready to create positive change in the world. Each year more than 30,000 K-12 students in at least 34 U.S. states and 14 countries around the world participate in a variety of challenges. Our Future Problem Solving programs equip curious young people with the skills they need to create a better future. 

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

Our problem solvers learn how to think, not what to think, and gain lifelong learning skills.

young student books

Future-Thinking

Building student agency

Real world issues engage and inspire students to learn the skills they need to succeed today and in the future
Of all the courses I taught over my 39-year teaching career, teaching and coaching Future Problem Solving to my students, was by far the most rewarding. If we want the world to become a better place, if we want to solve the problems we face, then we must train our future leaders, and provide them with the skills needed to face these concerns head on. Future Problem Solving does that!
tom marek testimonial
Tom Marak
Musician/Songwriter
(Retired Teacher)
Future Problem Solving forced me to be ideologically flexible as I was constantly thinking of new, innovative ideas and solutions to pressing problems that were entirely different from one another. I noticed that in other facets of my life, from work to school to debate, I was a much quicker and faster thinker after participating, and it also taught me how to become a better friend and teammate.
davis turner testimonial
Davis Turner
College Student Majoring in Economics and Urbanism
(Alum)
Future Problem Solving has equipped me with communication and problem solving skills that are relevant in my daily life. The skills are hard to argue with: triaging massive problems into identifiable, discernible issues that can be solved with solutions — and being able to properly grade and categorize those ideas. Moreover, it has made me a better communicator by pushing me to learn effective writing.
keshav-tadimeti-testimonial
Keshav Tadimeti
Cybersecurity Engineer
(Alum)
Future Problem Solving did feel like it was more grounded in the real world. We were analyzing issues that were so much bigger than what we were learning in the classroom and that was really exciting.
Shefa Sikder
Global Public Health Expert
(Alum)
Learning to engage in constructive conversation is not taught in schools. Future Problem Solving teaches kids how to convey their thoughts and present ideas in a compelling manner. It builds competence as well as confidence.
lisa chand testimonial
Lisa Chand
Marketing Consultant
(Parent)
There are tangible rewards to having the 6-step process as a go-to tool in their intellectual arsenal. FPS-ers tend to have a global perspective, a thirst for learning more and applying knowledge, all of which are traits highly coveted by school admissions offices.
diane fisher testimonial
Diane Fisher
College Admissions Counselor (Parent)

Future-Advantage

Ready for work, life, and to be a force for positive change

Fifty years ago, with the creation of a competition to engage and inspire learning, Future Problem Solving was on the leading edge of the movement to transform education. By continually innovating how and where we deliver our proven 6-step problem-solving method we will meet the needs of learners for the next 50 years.

8 out of 10 Global Issues students say learning about topics that will have important effects on the future helped them the most.

Center for Creative Learning Evaluation of the Future Problem Solving Program

9 out of 10 alumni rate Future Problem Solving as important in developing the skill sets they use in their adult lives.

UVA Future Problem Solving – Second Generation Study

Team problem-solving performance improves significantly through direct instruction on group dynamics.

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

Future Problem Solving students perform significantly higher in both Mathematics and Reading.

Future Problem Solving Students – A Five Year Study on Reading and Mathematics Performance

Partner With Us

The support of forward-thinking and innovative companies, foundations, thought leaders, associations, governments, and philanthropists makes a real difference.

Future-Forward

Problem solvers gain in-demand career skills

According to the World Economic Forum, our world is confronted with a range of unprecedented challenges and it is crucial for businesses, governments, and civil society to work together to find common solutions and take decisive action. The increasing relevance of complex problem solving in the workplace drives many findings in their 2023 Future of Jobs Report.

Their 2023 Future of Jobs Report identified the top five core skills required by workers:

1. Analytical thinking
2. Creative thinking
3. Resilience, flexibility, and agility
4. Motivation and self-awareness
5. Curiosity and lifelong learning

Future Problem Solving helps young people attain these five important core career skills and demonstrate the ability to use them to solve real world challenges so they are ready to be the workforce of tomorrow. 

Future-Impact

Creating lasting change

Young people gain more choice and voice in their own learning and the confidence to use their talents to make their world a better place.
I am attending high school and have started an NGO in Ghana where we recycle plastic waste. Future Problem Solving has transformed my outlook on the world and its pressing issues. Prior to competing, I had never considered tackling the problems of the future. Future Problem Solving opened my mind to a vast new world, and I'm very grateful for the opportunity to compete and have fun!
problem-solving student testimonial
Andrew
Founder Ghana NGO
(Student)
It allowed me to see the world in a whole new light. Especially due to the necessity of a solution at the end of your scenarios. You can write this whole story about some horrendous issue that we will face, but there is always a little spark of hope in the end. In order to come up with such solutions, you are required to think outside of any known dimensional shape, not just boxes! It also showed me how to work with new people quickly and efficiently.
mackenzey-kologlu-testimonial-vet-student
MacKenzey Kologlu
Veterinary Medicine Student
(Alum)
I've been writing since a young age. I used to compete in Future Problem Solving Scenario Writing, a competition where you project a world problem into the future as a science fiction short story. I won first place internationally for my scenario on toxic waste in seventh grade (in 1993), so that was probably the beginning of what led me to become a screenwriter.
allison schroeder hidden figures writer and future problem solving champion
Allison Schroeder
Screenwriter
(Alum)
Future Problem Solving laid a foundation for me to really critically think about social issues - and sort of led me to my career now. The skills I gained helped me feel confident in being able to learn about new topics quickly and efficiently, and taught me to think hard about multiple ways inequalities can manifest in a particular area.
lanora johnson testimonial
Lanora Johnson
Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology
(Alum)
I recently reconnected with a Future Problem Solving peer and got to catch up on my team. We talked about the fun we had coming up with what seemed like outrageous ideas (in the 80s) and how many of the problems we “solved” are real things now. She’s a law school dean doing lots of public interest and pro bono work, another is a pediatrician specializing in preemie babies, and our fourth is big in animal rescue work. Everyone found ways to make a lasting impact.
michelle waldgeir marketing and startup leader
Michelle Waldgeir
Marketing and Startup Executive
(Alum)
I coach a diverse set of kids who come from different backgrounds and cultures. Diverse voices allow for new and groundbreaking solutions, and this can be seen from my four person Global Issues teams to policy within our nation at large. In the workforce and in college, I will continue to amplify and value diverse voices. I hope to one day use the foundation that I have gained from Future Problem Solving to help me make a career of making a better world, one of peace, rights, and equality.
olga-rokhlenko-testimonial
Olga Rokhlenko
College Student Majoring in PPEL
(Alum)

Evaluation of the Future Problem Solving Program

(2011)

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

GLOBAL ISSUES

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)

 

COMMUNITY PROJECTS

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)

 

CREATIVE WRITING

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

Future Problem Solving Program International—Second Generation Study

(2011)

“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.

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

(2017)

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 Students – A Five Year Study

(2016)

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.

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.