Spontaneous problems are brain testers and brain builders. Some spontaneous problems build verbal skills, some build mechanical skills, and some build both, but all will improve creative problem-solving talents. Here are two examples of past spontaneous problems, taken from the Odyssey of the Mind National Website.

The Problem: Animal Rhymes

  1. You have 1 minute to think and 2 minutes to respond. You may ask questions during your thinking time, but time will continue. You may not talk to each other at any time.
  2. You will receive 1 point for each common response and 5 points for each creative or humorous response.
  3. You will take turns responding. You may not skip your turn or repeat a response. If one person cannot think of a response, response time will end.
  4. Your problem is to make a rhyme using a name or species of an animal. For example, you might say, “I think mice are nice” or “There’s a cat in the hat.”

The Problem: Cantilever Structure
You are to build a structure of toothpicks and clay that will sit on a table behind a boundary line. The structure will cantilever, or stick out, as far as possible beyond the boundary line without touching the table surface.

Long Term Solution, Style, Spontaneous

Three parts of and Odyssey of the Mind competition


Long Term Problem

The long term problem is a series of questions, requirements and activities to be worked on in sessions spanning a month or longer. The problems are best solved in groups, where members work together from brainstorming solution ideas to creating a comprehensive solution to present. You can have two or more groups work on the same problem to see how different the solutions can be!

The long term problem is evaluated in two ways:

  • Long Term Solution:

The long term problem solution covers both technical and creative aspects of the problem. Teams are scored both on whether they performed the required elements of the solution and how creatively they incorporated those elements into their solution. The long term problem solution consists of many aspects. Teams should study the problem carefully to ensure they are including all elements of the long term problem into their solution.

  • ​Style:

Long term problem performances are also scored in a category called style. Style consists of five elements: two specified by the problem, two that are free choice of the team and the way the combination off all the style elements combine to enhance the solution. Style elements of the long term problem encourage teams to be as creative as possible and helps teach students that they should not simply try to solve problems but take the next step of enhancing their solutions. Incorporating style into the performance lets everyone put his or her personal stamp on a performance and craft a solution that is unique to each team’s skills and ideas. Style judges are looking for that “wow” moment when a team gives a truly creative and innovative performance.