Personal Best (PB) goal-setting enhances arithmetical problem-solving

Paul Ginns*, Andrew J. Martin, Tracy L. Durksen, Emma C. Burns, Alun Pope

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Personal Best (PB) goals are defined as specific, challenging, and competitively self-referenced goals involving a level of performance or effort that meets or exceeds an individual’s previous best. Much of the available research underpinning arguments for PB goal-setting is self-report-based; thus, the causal effect of PB goals on learning outcomes remains in question. The present experiment examined the impact of PB goal-setting (against a no-goal condition) on 68 Year 5 and 6 schoolchildren’s problem-solving during an arithmetic fluency-building activity, SuperSpeed Math. Equivalence of the two conditions was established across a range of prior ability and self-report motivational variables, including prior mathematical ability; Personal Best, Mastery, and Performance goal orientations at the individual and classroom level; mathematics self-concept; and valuing of and interest in mathematics. Controlling for initial problem-solving performance, students who set PB goals in subsequent rounds showed a small but reliable advantage over students in the control condition. These results suggest PB goals may provide a way for students to experience both challenge and success in a range of classroom activities. Suggestions for future research based on these initial findings are made.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)533-551
Number of pages19
JournalAustralian Educational Researcher
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • goal setting
  • Personal Best (PB) goals
  • mathematics
  • problem-solving


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