The Power of “Yet”: How Growth Mindset Language Can Transform Your Math Class

How often have you heard a student say, “I don’t get it” or “I can’t do this”? Their words express several mindsets ranging from simply not understanding a concept or the steps necessary for a skill to the determination that they are not willing to put forth any more effort to grasp that concept or skill. So what can you do as a teacher to encourage your students? Encourage growth mindset language and introduce them to the word “yet.” 

This short, little word is extremely powerful! It recognizes where a student is currently at in their mindset (confused or unwilling to try), but gives hope for the future that they are capable of understanding the concept and mastering the skill. The power of “yet” removes the mental roadblock so students can continue to move forward. Growth mindset language can transform your math class!


According to Psychology Today, “A growth mindset, as conceived by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck and colleagues, is the belief that a person’s capacities and talents can be improved over time.” Take note of several keywords in that definition: belief, improved, and time. A student has to choose to believe their abilities can improve. Every action first starts as a thought in our mind. So students need to be aware of what they’re thinking. 

Imagine the mind being equipped with a filter. The purpose of this filter is to allow positive thoughts to flow through to eventually become mindsets (beliefs) and actions. However, the filter should be used to stop the negative thoughts (those related to confusion, discouragement, or the desire to give up). It is important to recognize all thoughts, especially confusion because that can lead to asking for help to understand better. We cannot get stuck in negative thoughts though because it results in a fixed mindset. We have to focus on the possibility of growth (i.e. improvement). This is where the word “yet” can give power for our thoughts to become focused on growth. 

Improvement occurs in varying degrees. A little growth toward a goal is just as important as a giant leap because both of them are headed in the right direction! 

Lastly, it is important to take note of the word “time.” Students need to realize that improvement takes time. It may be a short amount of time, like within that math class period. It may take a longer time period, such as the whole school year. “Time” here is not a passive word though. It means time spent through repeated efforts to reach a goal. The student needs to persevere and not give up, both in their mindset and in their actions. The word “yet” is a great reminder that there is hope for the future, regardless of one’s current understanding or ability. 



Encouraging a growth mindset also fosters a love of learning and not just achieving a goal. A growth mindset can inspire students to ask “why,” “how,” and “what if.” As their curiosity continues to grow, it can lead to a greater desire and determination to learn more about various skills and concepts, both in math and in all areas of life.  

So how can you encourage the use of growth mindset language within your math classroom? 

  • Attach the word “yet” to statements: Instead of a student simply saying, “I don’t understand this,” encourage them to say, “I don’t understand this yet.” Rather than “I can’t do this,” it becomes “I can’t do this yet.” Our brains hear what our mouths say. Even if a child doesn’t fully believe those words at that moment, changing their outward self-talk will influence how their brain (inner self-talk) reacts to the situation.
  • Promote positive language: Encourage students to use positive language to reframe their self-talk. Instead of saying “I’m not good at math,” encourage students to say “I’m still learning math.” Comments like, “This is hard, but I’m going to get it” also promote a growth mindset. Other growth mindset language could include statements like: 
    • “I don’t know this answer right now, but with effort, I know I will figure it out.”
    • “I may not understand this math problem, but I am willing to ask for help so I can learn how to find the answer. 
    • “I didn’t do well on this test, but I know that if I study harder and ask for help when I need it, I can improve next time.”
  • Praise efforts, not abilities: When students make mistakes or struggle with a concept, focus on the effort they put into it rather than their current abilities. Emphasize that learning is a process and that making mistakes is a natural part of that process. Praise the efforts, perseverance, and use of strategies students employ to reach their goals.
  • Foster a safe and supportive classroom environment: Create a classroom culture where it’s okay to take risks, make mistakes, and ask for help. Encourage collaboration and peer support, and model a growth mindset in your own teaching practices.

  • Set goals: Help students set achievable goals for themselves and encourage them to track their progress towards those goals. Celebrate their successes and encourage them to learn from their mistakes. For more tips on helping students set goals in math, click here.
  • Include opportunities for reflection: Encourage students to reflect on their learning and think about what strategies and approaches worked well for them. Help them see that setbacks are opportunities for learning and growth.
  • Provide feedback: Give constructive feedback that focuses on the process rather than the outcome. Encourage students to think about how they approached a problem, what worked or didn’t work, and what they can do differently next time.


  • Incorporate growth mindset activities: Use activities and resources that promote a growth mindset, such as growth mindset posters, books, and videos.

Here are a few ideas to get you started!

Be aware that developing a growth mindset can take more time for some students, especially if they’ve experienced a lot of past trauma. Be patient with them as they learn to use growth mindset language. The more students feel comfortable in your classroom, the more likely they will be to adapt their language and realize the power of “yet.”

Rocky the Raccoon headshot

Want to know more?

Let’s Talk

ORIGO Education

ORIGO Education has partnered with educators for over 25 years to make math learning meaningful, enjoyable and accessible to all.

About The ORIGO Approach
Rocky figure flying a kite.