Math Class and Comics Blogs

It’s that time of year again: For those in school, the fall semester is in full-swing and approaching the stretch where the winter holiday season doesn’t seem quite on the horizon. If you’re anything like me (averse to cold weather but living in an area that usually gets hit hard with snow and frigid temperatures), the quickly shortening days make winter weather seem like a looming possibility soon to be realized.

Since Vanessa wrote about an important and serious topic in her last post —  the climate strikes and sustainable mathematics — I’m in the mood to write about something a little more whimsical: comic books in math class.

For The Classroom Blog from Pop Culture Classroom, Jim McClain, the creator of the Solution Squad, a graphic novel about math-themed superheroes wrote “Using Comics to Teach Math!”

“I didn’t set out originally to create a graphic novel, or even a comic book,” McClain wrote. “I created Solution Squad to be heroes that I could use to replace the Marvel and DC characters I was using on my dozens of classroom activities. I had access to a wide variety of the worksheet sort of stuff early on in my career, and they were so mind-numbingly boring that I tried to jazz them up a little with the superheroes kids were watching on TV and in the movies at the time,” he added.

He describes some of the ideas behind his Solution Squad, such as using “characters themselves to embody math concepts.”

“The heroes are teenagers with math-themed powers. Absolutia controls temperature, which requires effort whether she raises or lowers it…Radical, whose symbol is a square root sign, can create invisible electromagnetic prisms whose bases are right triangles. He can move things, including himself, along the hypotenuse face of such a prism. Every construct he makes is itself an application of the Pythagorean Theorem,” he wrote.

Besides describing ways to use his book, McClain also mentions other resources, including The Manga Guide to Calculus and Prime Baby.

McClain also has a blog for the Solution Squad where he recently announced plans to complete Solution Squad Volume 2.

Math Teachers Take a Page From English/Language Arts: Comic Books!”

Education Week recently published this piece by Catherine Gewertz. While there aren’t currently many graphic novels about math themes, math-focused ones are “just starting to get traction” and “it’s a real opportunity for teachers to shape the market,” John Shableski, the director of education development at Udon Entertainment, said to Gewertz.

The piece quotes teachers who describe using math-themed comic books along with other curricula. The piece ends with a discussion of misconceptions about comics in the classroom.

Cindy S. Ticknor, author of The Mysterious I. D. Vide & Newton’s Nemesis math comic book series, also writes Half a Blog. She has written a few “Math & The Characters” posts explaining why she gave the characters some of the traits that she did. For instance, in Math & The Characters: Theo’s Mother,” Ticknor wrote about creating a character to help “the underlying narrative to reinforce growth mindset, or more specifically, mathematical mindset” as described in Jo Boaler’s Mathematical Mindset.

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