Determine the Size of the Problem

As humans, we encounter problems daily that need to be worked through and solved. Not all problems are equal. They come in different sizes. Small problems can be solved easily without much thought and typically just briefly impact one person. Bigger problems take more time to solve, impact more people, and carry stronger emotions that go with working through them. In order to solve a problem, it can be helpful to determine its size and ensure that our reaction to the problem fits with the size.

Low Problem: Can be solved easily, affects only 1-2 people, and does not impact mood or other situations.

Medium Problem: Takes more time to solve, impacts more people, stronger feelings are involved (disappointment, frustration, confusion), and may need help to work through it.

High Problem: Takes extended time to work through, impacts a group or community, very strong/uncomfortable feelings (anger, grief, sadness) are involved, and requires a lot of help and support.

Elementary Lesson


Recommended for grades below 3rd. 

After the video, discuss the following questions:

  1. What was the problem in the video?
  2. Who was impacted by the problem?
  3. Was the problem solved easily?
  4. What size was the problem?
  5. Did Marlin’s reaction to the problem match the size of the problem?

Secondary Lesson

Recommended for 3rd grade and up

Complete the What’s the Size of the Problem Activity.

Follow-Up Activity

Students can write down their own scenarios/examples that match the size of the problem.

Teacher Tips

Continue to assess the size of the problem in real time with students. From the small (i.e., can’t find a marker to write on the board) to larger problems (i.e., the power goes out at school) that are commonly experienced daily on campus.