In May of 2006, Dr. David Lucas and 16 other folknographers traveled to the center of Illinois and conducted a folknographic study for ACCLAIM. The intent of the study was to determine the perceptions held by the people of rural Illinois concerning math and math education. This was a second phase study; a follow-up on a previous study conducted in Appalachia. For the most part, the only difference in the investigation was the location and title of the project. Questions, research design, and method were kept the same.
Dr. Lucas developed the research method known as folknography. He led the team in the study in Midwest City*, Illinois. The project involved a two phase approach in data collection. First, the team employed a short survey which allowed for some quantitative data to be collected (for demonstrating possible trends and for comparison purposes). The second and more detailed phase involved the qualitative collection of data employing interviews, focus groups, observations, and two plenary sessions (an education festival and a town meeting).
The parameters for selecting the investigation sights remain relatively simple. First, the community should be rural in nature (less than 10, 000 population). The town should sustain the data needs for the sample size, however. Generally, the number living in the county constitutes the research population allowing the investigators to calculate the data sample size for the benchmarking, quantitative data. This, in turn, allows for ample opportunities for qualitative data collection as well. Researchers also prefer to select targets away from major universities, away from major metropolitan influences, and generally centralized in more remote or less accessible geographic locations.
The following pages represent the work of industrious undergraduate researchers known as folknographers. They are persistent, creative, determined, and dedicated. The student researchers worked 16 hour days and followed a 4/40 rule. Each research team (usually consisting of two or three students) conducted at least four interviews each day and administered at least 40 surveys. The result of such energy is nothing less than spectacular. Each team carries digital cameras, digital recorders, field notebooks, and other materials. Debriefings each night lead straight into long writing sessions for recording the narratives resulting from the interviews. This work is not for the weak, unmotivated, or passive student. This is the evidence of the work of champions. The grand tour question for this study is, “What are the perceptions of people in the Midwest concerning math and math education?” Please enjoy as you peruse through the following pages to find the answers!
* pseudo name