The paper develops the finite element method (FEM) in the form of the force method and in the mixed form for the calculation of structures. At present, the displacement-based finite element method is mainly used for engineering calculations. Stress-based and mixed finite element formulations are not so widely spread, but in some cases these formulations can be more effective in particular with respect to calculating stresses and also obtaining a two-sided estimate of the exact solution of the problem. The finite element models based on the approximation of discontinuous stress fields and the use of the penalty function method to satisfy the equilibrium equations are considered. It is shown that the continuity of both normal and tangential stresses only on the adjacent sides of the finite elements contributes to the expansion of the class of statically admissible stress fields. At the same time, the consistent approximation is provided, both of the main part of the functional of additional energy, and its penalty part. The necessary matrix relations for rectangular and triangular finite elements are obtained. The effectiveness of the developed models is illustrated by numerical studies. The calculation results were compared with the solution on the FEM in displacements, as well as with the results obtained using other schemes of approximating the stresses in the finite element. It is shown that the model of discontinuous stress approximations gives the bottom convergence of the solution, both in stresses and in displacements. At the same time, the accuracy on the stresses here is much higher than in the displacement-based FEM or when using conventional stress approximation schemes.