How Families and Communities Can Support Black and Latino Student Engagement in Math After the Pandemic

BlogHealthy SchoolsMay 1 2024



The Adapted Measure of Math Engagement Research Group includes five students (Aubrey Caldwell, Antonio Chavira, Brianna Espy, Serrah Ssemukutu, and Diamond Tony-Uduhirinwa), five teachers (Nate Earley, Karina Mazurek, Kathleen Morgan, Karla Rokke, and Ashly Tritch), and five researchers (Marisa Crowder, Samantha E. Holquist, Diane (Ta-Yang) Hsieh, Claire Kelley, and Mark Vincent B. Yu). Alyssa Scott and Laney Taylor also extensively contributed to this work.

The COVID-19 pandemic significantly disrupted education and student engagement in learning, which further compounded existing racial/ethnic inequities in math achievement, especially for Black and Latino students—underscoring the critical importance of addressing barriers to engagement. Family and community support for students’ math learning is a crucial strength that is often overlooked in understanding and supporting student engagement in math.

Every student is embedded in webs of relationships that can support their math engagement, including with parents/guardians, caregivers, grandparents, siblings, cousins, and other community supports. Research highlights that these relationships are particularly important for supporting Black and Latino students’ math engagement. However, family and community support in students’ math learning remains a challenge for students, families, communities, teachers, and schools.

In the first year of a three-year study, the Adapted Measure of Math Engagement (AM-ME),[1] the AM-ME Research Group dove deeper into understanding how Black and Latino students receive support from their families and communities when learning math. We collected and analyzed data from student self-report surveys, student focus groups, and teacher interviews. Based on these data, we identified three important takeaways that can help Black and Latino students’ families and communities better support their engagement in math:

1Families’ and communities’ expectations that students will be successful can support Black and Latino students’ engagement in math.

Black and Latino students often feel motivated to engage in math when they receive support from their families and communities. This is not surprising given the importance of family and community relationships within Black and Latino communities. Families and communities help students by setting expectations for success, helping with homework, providing encouragement, meeting with teachers, and emphasizing the value of education. By fostering discussions about the importance, relevance, and application of math in everyday life, families and communities can create supportive environments for math learning outside of the classroom, which enhances students’ engagement inside the classroom.

2District- and school-based resources can help Black and Latino students and their math teachers connect to family and community assets.

Black and Latino students and their math teachers identified several district- and school-based resources that helped students leverage family and community assets to support their math engagement. These resources included:

  • Cultural-specific student clubs and spaces (such as Black Student Union or Spanish Club) where students could build relationships with their peers
  • Language support services (such as translators) who help teachers navigate language barriers with families
  • Cultural liaisons who help students and teachers uplift students’ unique cultural experiences, values, and norms within the classroom and school environment

Our respondents indicated that each of these resources supported students and helped their math teachers integrate Black and Latino students’ cultural assets into math learning, which ultimately supported engagement.

3Black and Latino students struggle to identify out-of-school time resources in their communities that can support their math engagement.

When asked about activities that might support their engagement with math outside of school (such as afterschool programs, clubs, and tutors), Black and Latino students struggled to identify opportunities. Students mainly discussed using online tools (such as Khan Academy and YouTube) to engage with math outside the classroom, but felt that these tools often did not provide supports that helped them deeply understand math concepts. The lack of available out-of-school time resources made it more difficult for students to engage with math outside of school and see its relevance to their everyday life.

For more details about these takeaways and others, check out our new resource on helping students, practitioners, families, and community members support Black and Latina/o students’ deeper engagement in math.

For strategies for supporting family and community engagement in students’ math learning, check out these resources:

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.


[1] This project is designed to conceptualize math engagement in a way that centers Black and Latino students’ unique cultural experiences, values, and norms.

Suggested Citation

Adapted Measure of Math Engagement Research Group. (2024). How families and communities can support Black and Latino student engagement in math after the pandemic. Child Trends. DOI: 10.56417/4445s7896z