Dr. India White, Author, SAVVAS Learning Company

Dr. India White is a TEDx speaker, national educational consultant, and author of 46+ books. A three-time graduate of the University of Florida, her expertise is in math, educational leadership, and administration. As a former math teacher, math coach, and Assistant Principal, she focuses on helping teachers and principals implement equitable practices and develop student grit to bridge the achievement gap. Dr. White has presented at numerous conferences, including MACUL, NCTM, NCSM, and CMC-South. She chairs Equity and Access Committee for FCTM.


When it comes to teaching math, having grit is essential for both teachers and students. Grit, characterized by perseverance and passion for long-term goals, can significantly impact student success in the math classroom. It provides the drive students need to overcome challenges and persist through difficult math problems. However, some students lack grit due to factors such as math anxiety, fear of failure, criticism, and low self-esteem. Consequently, they may tense up during mathematical discussions or withdraw as a defense mechanism. To best support your students, here are three benefits for math teachers to consider when fostering grit in their students:

  1. Teach Resilience in the Face of Challenges

Math can be a challenging subject for many students, and it is not uncommon for them to encounter obstacles along the way. By promoting grit in the classroom, teachers can help students develop the resilience needed to overcome these challenges. When students have grit, they are more likely to persevere through difficult problems, seek out help when needed, and ultimately achieve success in math. Encouraging phrases such as “Keep going, you’re getting there!” or “I know it can get tough, but you’re close to the finish line!” can motivate students to push through tough problems. As an educator, it is crucial to refuse to allow students to quit or succumb to failure, fostering a classroom environment where perseverance is valued and rewarded.

Teaching resilience in the classroom involves several effective strategies. One approach is modeling a healthy, optimistic thought process for students as you navigate through a word problem, demonstrating how to approach challenges positively. Additionally, using higher-order thinking questions and various math question stems can help students explore different strategies and deepen their understanding. Encouraging students to turn and talk, sharing ideas with their peers, while providing scaffolding support, further enhances their learning process. It is important for students to understand that misconceptions and errors are integral to the learning experience. These experiences are stepping stones toward achieving proficiency, helping them grow and progress on their educational journey.

  1. Cultivate a Growth Mindset

Grit is closely tied to the concept of a growth mindset, which is the belief that abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. By fostering a growth mindset in the math classroom, teachers can help students view mistakes as opportunities for learning and growth. When students believe they can improve their math skills through effort and perseverance, they are more likely to take on challenging tasks and push themselves to reach their full potential. Building grit through a growth mindset involves changing students’ limiting thoughts and perspectives of self-efficacy. I found that through using the acronym G.R.I.T., Great Resilience in Time, we intentionally help students shift from negative or limited thoughts to those that affirm their ability to achieve. Over time, this approach helps students become gritty and overcome the limitations they face in their learning journey.

Sometimes, students need a guide or mentor to help them see the light at the end of the tunnel as they learn, and their teacher is the perfect leader to reveal this hope. Teachers are the primary influence on a student’s academic success in the classroom. By implementing effective teaching practices, teachers can significantly enhance student growth, potentially leading to substantial learning gains. Through a growth mindset, teachers can make a big difference each day. As teachers remain gritty and impart these concepts to their students, positive outcomes become inevitable.

  1. Increased Motivation and Engagement

When students have grit, they are more motivated to succeed and are willing to put in the effort needed to achieve their goals. This increased motivation can lead to higher levels of engagement in the math classroom, as students are more likely to actively participate in class discussions, complete assignments, and seek out additional learning opportunities. In my TEDx Talk, “The Power of Grit,” I shared a story about a student who struggled with low self-efficacy and math anxiety, initially scoring at a level 1. By fostering grit and implementing various gritty practices, he was able to turn his academic performance around, ultimately scoring at a level 5 by the end of the school year. This transformation highlights the impact of grit on student success.

Some of the ways I enjoyed motivating students and cultivating grit included various engaging activities. One of my favorites was the “Get Gritty With It!” game, designed to inspire and energize learners. Another was the “Grit Circle,” a time for introspection and encouragement at the end of the lesson. These activities, along with others connected to the grit acronym “Great Resilience in Time,” helped students internalize the concept of grit. As a result, grit became a natural trait for students, growing into a key part of our classroom culture. Persistence and motivation to learn and thrive became the expectation. By fostering grit, teachers can create a positive and supportive learning environment, encouraging students to take ownership of their learning and strive for excellence in math. Thus, having grit in the math classroom benefits both teachers and students in numerous ways.


By promoting resilience, fostering a growth mindset, and increasing motivation and engagement, teachers can equip students with the essential skills and mindset necessary for success in math and beyond. As educators prioritize teaching resilience amidst challenges and cultivate a growth mindset in their students, coupled with efforts to increase motivation and engagement through strategies like reminding students of grit through the acronym G.R.I.T., students exceed the academic benchmarks established in the classroom and persist towards their long-term objectives. Encouraging grit in the classroom empowers students to confront challenges directly, persevere through obstacles, and ultimately attain their academic aspirations.

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