Adapted Measure of Math Engagement

Healthy SchoolsApr 3 2024

Adapted Measure of Math Engagement (AM-ME) is a three-year, mixed method, critical participatory action research project funded by the National Science Foundation to develop a culturally sustaining self-report measure of Black and Latina/o middle and high school students’ math engagement. The project—guided by interdisciplinary and strengths-based perspectives, and conducted in partnership with three middle schools and two high schools—aims to:

  • Qualitatively investigate the experiences of Black and Latina/o students’ engagement in math
  • Develop and produce evidence of validity and reliability for a multi-dimensional measure of Black and Latina/o student math engagement

This project is a partnership between Child Trends, Search Institute, McREL International, and Bloomington Public Schools.


Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) is a continuously growing and relatively high-paying field in the United States, which also fails to recruit and retain Black and Latina/o talents. Racial/ethnic inequities in math are particularly concerning, as math is a gateway subject into STEM. There is growing evidence that the persistence of racial/ethnic inequalities in math is closely associated with educational factors that undermine student engagement.

To date, research and measures of Black and Latina/o student engagement are often based on deficit-based perspectives, which have failed to capture the many important ways in which math can be engaging for these students. Key limitations of existing measures of student engagement also include inconsistencies in the inclusion and structure of items, lack of domain specificity, and insufficient evidence to demonstrate that measures work equally well across important contextual factors such as race/ethnicity and gender.

This project addresses these critical gaps in Black and Latina/o students’ engagement with math by taking a strengths-based approach that uplifts Black and Latina/o students’ unique cultural experiences, values, and norms, which can strengthen their educational experiences in diverse ways that are not supported by current math educational practices.


Using a critical participatory action research approach, five researchers, six teachers, and six students—jointly known as the AM-ME Research Group—will co-design and implement this project. Critical participatory action research is rooted in the belief that those served by research should participate in the design of research questions, methods, analyses, interpretations, and action planning. The critical aspect of the approach encourages researchers, teachers, and students to investigate ways to better serve the needs of those not benefiting from current practices. As such, critical participatory action research addresses the limitations of traditional approaches to measurement development, in which researchers typically do not directly partner with users of developed measures in ways that intentionally shift practice.

Using an iterative, mixed-methods approach, the AM-ME Research Group will (1) investigate whether a prominent current measure—the Math and Science Engagement Scales—adequately reflects the experiences of Black and Latina/o students in math; (2) based on findings, refine the Math and Science Engagement Scales to better align with these students’ experiences, thereby creating the AM-ME; and (3) examine evidence of the structural validity of the AM-ME, its measurement invariance for Black and Latina/o students, and its criteria and consequential validity in relation to subgroup averages and math achievement. By intertwining qualitative and quantitative methods, this project will elevate the unique experiences of Black and Latina/o students’ math engagement and develop the AM-ME to reflect how these students think, feel, and perform in their math courses.


By developing a measure of math engagement that centers Black and Latina/o students’ lived experiences, this project will open the gate to inclusive math learning environments and culturally sustaining understandings of what it means to be engaged in math. Beyond direct impacts in the five partner schools, we anticipate that the measure and results may transfer to other contexts—especially for Black and Latina/o students in other under-resourced urban schools. To support such impact, we will produce a toolkit that allows practitioners and students within such contexts to consider their own local adaptations to measures of student engagement; the toolkit will also include recommended strategies for partnering with researchers on adapting to local contexts. Additionally, our critical participatory action research design will directly promote diversity in the field of STEM research as Black and Latina/o students gain experience conducting research and practitioners grow in their capacity to authentically listen to and uplift Black and Latina/o voices.


Learnings will regularly be shared with local and national audiences through blogs, infographics, presentations, and journal articles. New learnings will be posted below:

Year 1 Learnings

How Families and Communities Can Support Black and Latino Student Engagement in Math After the Pandemic
This blog describes how families and communities can support Black and Latino students’ engagement with math coursework.

What Teachers Should Know About Supporting Black and Latino Students’ Math Engagement After the Pandemic
This blog suggests ways for teachers to support Black and Latino students’ engagement in math coursework.

Year 1 Survey Results
Data on how Black and Latina/o students responded to a survey about engagement in math.

Year 2 Learnings

Teachers Must Be Equipped to Guide Students’ Growing Use of AI to Learn Math
This blog explores how we can help students and teachers productively use AI tools to support math learning.

Five Hot Tips to Sustain Youth Researcher Engagement in Projects
This blog discusses how to keep youth researchers engaged on long-term participatory action research projects.

Year 2 Survey Results (Upcoming)
Data on how Black and Latina/o students responded to a survey about engagement in math.

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This project is funded by the National Science Foundation, grant #2200437. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in these materials are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

AM-ME Research Group Members

  • Samantha Holquist, principal investigator
  • Diane Hsieh, co-principal investigator
  • Marisa Crowder, co-principal investigator
  • Mark Yu, co-principal investigator
  • Claire Kelley, co-principal investigator
  • Aubrey Caldwell, student
  • Antonio Chavira, student
  • Brianna Espy, student
  • Serrah Ssemukutu, student
  • Diamond Tony-Uduhirinwa, student
  • Ryan Ombongi, student
  • Nathan Earley, teacher
  • Kathleen Morgan, teacher
  • Karina Mazurek, teacher
  • Karla Rokke, teacher
  • Ashly Tritch, teacher

Supporting Research Team Members