OUS students to study math in Appalachia

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Fractions and algebra will not be required, but Ohio University Southern students in Dr. David Lucas' communications studies class will participate in a field research project focusing on math education in Appalachia.

Lucas and 15 of his undergraduate students will travel to Richwood, W.Va., in Nicholas County from March 20 to 27 for a research project that looks at the perception of math and math education in rural parts of the country.

"There has been a lot of research done about how math teachers, educators and other higher-ups feel about math education," Lucas said. "Very little, if any, has been done to ask the people how they feel about math education."

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The students will use a qualitative research method developed by Lucas known as Folknography that is used to recorded attitudes and perceptions of communities and groups.

"This research method gives a voice to the people. We want to know what the folk think about the research topic," Lucas said. "In this case, we want the folk to tell us their attitudes toward math."

The researchers will conduct interviews, focus groups and discussions with community members from all walks of life in the town of 3,000, Lucas said. At the end of each day, the students will write reports and post them on the Web site at www.southern.ohiou.edu/folknography.

The project resulted from a grant project submitted by Lucas to the ACCLAIM Research Institute, a cooperative effort between Ohio University, teh University of Louisville, the University of Kentucky and the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

"For undergraduates to be asked to do this type of research is pretty trend-setting," he said. "It is pretty exciting."

The project is important because it is faculty and student research initiated at a regional campus, Lucas said. To top it all, the students will be giving up their spring break.

"The students understand this is real research," he said. "This isn't an exercise, a game or mock research. This is the real McCoy."

For non-traditional Ironton student George McCalvin, the entire project is fascinating because it focuses on what the individual thinks and will be beneficial to the math students of the future.

"I believe this will be tremendous. You can't beat on-the-job training. This is hands-on," he said. "We can sit in the classroom and Dr. Lucas can do a wonderful job teaching us, but once you get your hands on it, it makes a huge difference."

Junior Erica Melvin, an organizational communications major, said she has never participated in research like this before but said she is excited about the trip.

"This is really a good opportunity to experience new things and see how this works," she said. "It will be beneficial to ourselves, but also to (others) because they can see how people really feel about math education and how it may need to be changed to make it better."

Richwood Mayor Bob Johnson is excited about the visit and what it could mean for science.

"You have to get the information from the people on the ground in order to get a true picture of what people think," he said in a written statement.