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Goal free problems

The Background
The focus was to look at strategies that may help to alleviate ‘Maths anxiety’. The use of
‘Goal free problems’ arose from this aspect of our PDC work.

How does it work?


‘Goal free problems have been proven to support pupils in improving their
knowledge and understanding by removing the cognitive load of the goal and
therefore not prompting means-end analysis of a problem.’

So basically when you are given a question you just ‘write down what you know’, taking
away some of the anxiety of ​‘What am I supposed to do?’​ , ​‘What if I get it wrong?​’, ‘​I’ll just
skip that question’​ ...

What do they look like?

Maths PDC 2019


The outcomes
During our work we found that whatever the student’s age or mathematical ability they
exhibited some traits of anxiety whether it be ‘​my mind went blank’​ or ‘​ I didn’t know what the
question was going on about​’. By using the ‘goal free’ approach during lessons and revision
sessions we have been able to focus on what the students do know. In many cases the
knowledge they did have would have either partly or fully helped them to reach their ‘end
goal’.

Year 12 revision task: This is an example of a multiple part and high mark exam question. In
this case the student would have displayed enough recall of knowledge and displayed
accurate methods to score full marks on the original question.

Maths PDC 2019