Igniting Interest and Curiosity Through Solving Real World Problems

As a parent of two elementary-aged boys, getting them excited about additional STEM learning and practice can be challenging. To help overcome the time and interest challenge of adding supplemental learning to the daily routine, we have been using a two-phased approach —  Basic Training and Real World Problem Solving. It is a simple yet effective approach to blend in fundamentals with core skills.

For the Basic Training portion, we use STEM Village and follow the school curriculum for math and science that is used in class. Using the available mix of supplemental learning and practice links provides the variety that we need to keep their attention.  The built-in points and rewards systems allows us to provide child-specific motivation.

For Real World Problem Solving, we try to incorporate as many daily lessons as possible. Real world STEM problems are all around us and become easier to spot with a little practice.  Here are a few examples to help get you jump started:


The recent Summer Olympic Games offered so many great STEM learning opportunities for kids.  The ability to tackle questions like the following all provide a great backdrop for instant STEM learning:

  • “Can I ride my bike faster than Usain Bolt runs the 100 meter dash?”
  • “Can Penny Oleksiak swim faster than my goldfish?”
  • “How impactful was the 0.5 m/s head wind on Andre DeGrasse and Usain Bolt in the 200m final?”


Cooking and baking also offer great learning opportunities. So much can be learned about fractions, mass, and volume during the process.  When cooking have your child determine the quantities necessary for a recipe when you change the number of servings (e.g. making 1.5 times the suggested amount from the recipe).


A family trip by car offers a terrific source of problems to be solved. Can your child predict arrival as well as Google maps? Can they determine when you will need to stop for gas? How many white cars will we pass in the next 30 minutes? Etc…


Drawing the link between practical and applied STEM problem solving often drives curiosity, which in turn, drives interest.  Your problems will likely require logic flow, use of the scientific method, and strong numeracy.

Give it a try and take the challenge to help your child solve a real life STEM problem each day!

This article was written by Kevin McCafferty, father of two boys and co-founder of STEM Village.