Pupils solve problems when they study mathematics. They solve problems in science lessons. So why not in history?
Perhaps it’s because we don’t see it as a problem-solving subject. But we should. Let’s start with identifying the types of problems historians face when writing about the past.
Problem 1: Significance
This relates to the questions of why certain historical events or persons are meaningful while others are not. Activities which ask pupils to consider who better deserves to be remembered places this concept at the front of pupils’ minds. Creating a real-life situation makes it much more relevant. A good example of this on the site, widely used by KS1 teachers, is who better deserves a statue outside St Thomas hospital today: Florence Nightingale or Mary Seacole?
Problem 2: Using primary source evidence
History is interpretation based on inferences from primary sources that come from the period being studied. When working with primary source evidence we need to pay attention to the source itself, the context of the source ( when it was produced by whom and why). Only by asking these questions can we make any useful judgement about how useful or reliable a source is.