What it takes to use comics in the math classroom

OK, you are going to just hang with me for a minute here. I will start by saying that I am not a math teacher, so these are ideas that I think will work, not necessarily ideas I have tried. Since looking in to this whole comics in the classroom idea, I have been thinking more and more of how this can be used in any classroom, even the math classroom. I can hear a whole room full of math teachers either laughing or sighing at this very moment.

“What,” they ask. “I don’t have time to set students loose on the computers for several class periods just so they can make a comic strip. They need to be learning math.”

I admit, this is a valid argument when we look at what teachers are supposed to help student learn over the course of a year. However, we also need to look at this from another point of view and maybe ask a few questions.

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  • Are the students really learning all that they are taught in the classroom?
  • Are the students engaged in the classes?
  • Do the students remember what they were taught when the dreaded state test roll around in the Spring?

I am guessing that we all have an idea of how most math teachers would answer these questions.

Having students make comics within the context of the math classroom will help students learn more, remember more, and be more engaged in what they are learning. The hard part is taking the leap and putting students to work in the computer lab. For some, this really is like jumping out of an airplane and hoping that the parachute opens. From a first look, the activity is going to look like a total waste of time. The students aren’t going to know how to use the comic app. They are going to have to make accounts, figure out what they are going to create, and then there is the time in just making the comic. And on top of all this, students are going to want to present them.

It does seem hard to justify at times, but the rewards are going to be worth it. Here is how I see a typical math class running while implementing the creation of comics.

  1. Teach a math concept. I am guessing that in order to justify using time to make comics, the concept should probably be one of the “biggies.” It might even be a good idea to teach several concepts and then have the students choose one to present in a comic.
  2. Have students work several problems so they understand the basics of how a problem works.
  3. Have students brainstorm ideas on how the problem might pertain to real life applications.
  4. Students will then make a comic that sets up the problem and possibly shows how it is solved. This is where the assignment could change greatly depending on the what the teachers wants. Students may be asked to make a problem for the class to solve, or they may be asked to go through the entire process of solving the problem they made.

I really think this could work. I would like to hear from math teachers. What do you think? Could this or would this be an effective use of time, and do you think this will help students learn concepts better? I would also appreciate an ideas you might have on how this activity could be made to better suit the needs of the students.

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